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Toxic Shock! TSS and Tampon Alert Day

Posted in Personal Health 04 Jun, 2015

Here's one for your diary. June 8th is Tampon Alert Day. The emergency services are drafting in more personnel to cover the potential crisis. It's going to be like War of the Worlds, except tampons will descend to Earth and attempt to flush us away.

Although it sounds more like a good plot for the next Hollywood blockbuster than a timely reminder, this campaign actually exists to point out that, although they are usually very safe, tampons can make some people extremely ill or even be fatal.

Remember those warnings from the school 'special nurse'? She was talking sense, despite the overly graphic explanation of vaginal discharge. Tampons must be used correctly. Here's a reminder of Nurse Marie's presentation. Please take it seriously this time.

What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

It's a build up of toxins caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus Aureus. It's generally found in the nose and vagina. Men, women and children can be affected by TSS, but half of all cases are presented by girls and women during their periods. It's linked to tampons, but because no-one knows exactly how much bacterium every individual women has, it's impossible to tell who might be affected. That's why it's important to be aware of the dangers.

The Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Folk usually start to feel like they have flu or food poisoning, but then symptoms get worse and can be fatal. Here's the list of symptoms. You'll find these listed in your tampon pack leaflet too.

  • A sudden high fever
  • A sunburn-like rash
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle ache
  • Sore throat
  • Fainting
  • Skin peeling

Symptoms occur after a period has started and only one or two signs may be present.

How To Avoid Getting TSS

The risk of menstrual TSS can be minimised by not using tampons. OK, that's not very practical; you may want to swim with sharks that weekend. Plus, tampons are just so easy and convenient. Many women can't live without them.

To keep the risks down:

Always wash your hands before inserting a tampon. This is the same for whatever applicator or non-applicator variety you choose.

Use the smallest absorbency for the flow you are experiencing. In the 1980s there were a higher number of TSS cases due to super-absorbent tampons.

Take a break from tampons for part of the day by using a sanitary towel. Some recommend this is best at night, but we know lying down will cause leakage, no matter how many wings there are. You might be better off waiting till you're home from work and in the beloved pizza-eating trousers.

Don't be tempted to use two tampons, even if your flow is really heavy. Instead, try a pad at the same time.

Change the tampon every 4-8 hours. The longer you leave it the higher the risk.

Whatever You Do...

Do not leave a tampon in towards the end of your period and forget about it. Nurse Marie will be after you, and it looks like she weight-lifts.

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