Toxic shock syndrome, also known as TSS, is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition caused by certain strains of bacteria that produce poisons (toxins). Affecting 1-4 in every 100,000 people, TSS causes toxins to spread into the bloodstream, causing severe organ damage or even death in some cases.
Know The Symptoms Of Toxic Shock Syndrome
TSS is known to cause symptoms such as a high temperature, rash and dizziness; however, often, the first sign of something not quite right is a change in your vaginal discharge. Know what’s normal for you, and seek advice if anything seems different. Read up on vaginal discharge from our blog article to find out more. If you’re worried a change in discharge might be due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it’s easy and quick to order an at-home STI kit from Yoxly.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can avoid getting toxic shock syndrome - keep reading to find out!
1. Regularly Change Your Tampon
First and foremost, it's essential that you frequently change your tampon. The United States FDA, which regulates tampons, states that tampons should never be worn for more than 8 hours. Likewise, most gynaecologists recommend they are changed every 4-8 hours, even if your flow is light.
This is because the longer a tampon is left in, the greater the risk of bacterial growth and toxin release, which can thus lead to toxic shock syndrome.
2. Use The Lowest Possible Absorbency Tampon
Another way you can reduce your risk of getting TSS is to opt for the lowest absorbency tampon, as this will minimise the amount of time that the tampon is inside, reducing the likelihood of bacterial growth.
In addition to this, if a tampon is too absorbent for your flow, it can lead to vaginal dryness and small tears in the vaginal wall, which can make it easier for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This is because tears can provide a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and produce toxins, which can in turn, increase the risk of developing TSS.
3. Keep Your Tampon Box In A Cool, Dry Place
As bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments, it’s best to keep your tampon box in a cool, dry place, ideally not the bathroom. It’s also best to keep them in their original packaging to prevent contamination from body spray, perfume, dust, and other debris.
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4. Ensure Your Hands Are Clean When Inserting A Tampon
It goes without saying that you should always remember to wash your hands frequently, but even more so when it comes to tampon usage. Clean hands significantly lowers your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before inserting and removing a tampon.
5. Avoid Sleeping With A Tampon In
Another important tip is to avoid wearing a tampon overnight, if you can. This is because, as mentioned previously, tampons shouldn’t be worn for longer than eight hours, so in circumstances where you are likely to sleep in (holidays, the weekend etc.), it’s best to wear a pad.
That being said, if you have no choice but to wear a tampon overnight, set an alarm. This way you’ll be able to wake up in time to change your tampon so you’re not exceeding the 8-hour limit. Also ensure you insert a fresh tampon before going to bed and remove it as soon as you wake up.
6. Use Period Underwear
Although TSS is often associated with the use of tampons, it can develop from the use of any internal vaginal device, including menstrual cups, so be extra cautious if using cups and remember to remove the cup within the 12 hour limit.
To completely reduce the risk of developing TSS from internal menstrual products, you might want to consider alternative (external) protection such as period underwear or sanitary pads.
Period underwear are pants that you wear when you are on your period which are designed to absorb the flow of your period and can be washed and reused over and over again, just like any normal underwear. The great thing about them is that they come in a range of styles and budgets, from briefs to thongs! They are also eco friendly, moisture wicking, comfortable and leak proof and can last up to 12 hours.
Reusable sanitary pads are another safer, eco-friendly alternative to tampons. They're simply fabric pads which fit around your knickers and are then washed and reused.
Both options are definitely worth considering if you want to avoid developing toxic shock syndrome while on your period.
Written by Kate on behalf of Cheeky Pants - the UK's most trusted suppliers of reusable period and incontinence products.