How much do you really know about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

Hands up if you thought TSS was an infection ONLY caused by leaving a tampon in for too long? You’re not alone!

Although not changing your tampon regularly enough does increase your chance of developing the infection, there’s more to TSS than you might think.

To help you to have a positive, healthy period and reduce your risk, we’ve created a TSS low-down of top facts and tips.

So, what is TSS?

In short, TSS is a rare condition that’s caused by the release of harmful toxins in your blood by bacteria (staphylococcus or streptococcus) and can quickly turn fatal if not treated. 

It’s totally normal for these bacteria to live on your skin and in your nose or mouth without causing any harm. However, the tables turn when the bacteria enters the body, releasing harmful toxins into the bloodstream.

What causes TSS and bacterial growth?

Anyone can get TSS – it’s not just a vaginal issue! But in most cases it’s tampon users that are affected.  

Why? Tampons, particularly those that have a high absorbency, can encourage bacteria growth and increase the risk of TSS in two ways:

  • If a tampon is left in for a long time, it can encourage the bacteria to grow.
  • If a tampon sticks to the vaginal wall (typically when blood flow is light) and is then removed, it can cause small tears and increase the risk of internal infection.

However, it’s worth noting that TSS has also been linked with menstrual cup use and childbirth, and can also occur where a cut, burn, boil or wound get infected.

What are the symptoms?

Look out for flu-like symptoms including, a high temperature, vomiting, dizziness and muscle ache.  If you’re worried you have these symptoms, remove any internal menstrual products and seek medical advice ASAP.  For more symptoms and advice click here.

How to avoid TSS?

Prevention is key! So, here are some easy tips to help avoid TSS:

  • Knowledge is power, so always remember to follow usage and care instructions on your menstrual products.
  • If you use internal menstrual products:
    • Remember to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap before removing or inserting.
    • Change tampons regularly (at least every four hours) and do so gently.
    • Avoid using super absorbent tampons unless needed and make sure you’re using the right size tampon for your flow.
    • Switch to sanitary towels at night-time or when your flow is light.
  • Swapping from internal menstrual products to reusable sanitary pads, is a quick and easy way to reduce your TSS risk. Why not start by using reusables at night-time or at the start or end of your period? Our Maxi pads are perfect for night-time use and our discreet Nora Liners (now available in white) will keep you feeling fresh and protected in the early and later days of your cycle. Shop here.