What You Need to Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome So You Don’t Freak Out
Having your period can really suck (believe us, we know). Sometimes it feels like Mother Nature’s way of saying “cool, you get to bleed like the hallway in The Shining, be a raging jerk, and have King Kamehameha level cramps! SO LOVELY TO BE A WOMANNNNNNNN!” Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.
Recently, another point of period suckage has been making the rounds on the Internet. At this point, we’ve all read (and unconsciously clenched during) the Vice article about model Lauren Wasser who lost her leg due to toxic shock syndrome that was caused by a tampon. Before you vow to only use period panties (like the ones from this Kickstarter) from now on, here are some essential facts to know about toxic shock syndrome.
1. It’s really rare: It’s important to note that toxic shock syndrome is rare (figure only a couple hundred people in the US are affected by it each year), so it’s not like the next time Flo is in town, you’re doomed.
2. It has to do with infections: According to the Mayo Clinic, TSS is a “complication of certain types of bacterial infections” not just caused by tampon usage. As Vice put it: “a person must already have Staphylococcus aureus present in his or her body” to get TSS. This came into play in Wasser’s case because she ended up getting gangrene, which lead to the amputation of her leg.
3. It can be caused by sleeping with a tampon inside you: Most tampons have an advisory on them that say to change them every three hours or so. When you sleep in a tampon the absorbed blood (which is essentially the lining of your uterus and other things) hangs out in your body too long and could become a breeding ground for bacteria that could lead to infection. Unless you want to get up every few hours to swap em out, just use an overnight pad.
4. Organic tampons may help: According to WebMD, the material your tampon is made of may also lead to the growth of bacteria. They suggest that tampons made with rayon and polyester foam make it easier for bacteria to collect on the tampon once it’s inside. You can avoid these materials by using organic tampons and always read the label before you buy.
5. Step away from the Super Plus: The University of Illinois McKinley Health Center recommends using a tampon with the minimum absorbency needed so you’re regularly switching it out and running less of a risk for infection.
6. FYI… tampons expire: Who knew, right?? If you wouldn’t eat a yogurt that was past its date, you shouldn’t stick something past due up your vajazz. The expiration date is usually printed on the bottom of the box so make sure to double check any boxes you have under your sink. (Also, just anecdotally, condoms expire too! Check those bad boys out!)
7. If you feel something, say something: Symptoms of TSS include headaches, fever and vomiting. A lot of us may write symptoms like that off as standard issue period yuckiness but if you feel any of those symptoms more so than usual on your period, you should remove your tampon and go to a doctor immediately. TSS strikes hard and fast so the sooner you get help the better.
What other medical buzz do you want the scoop on? Ask us in the comments!