By Stacy Lloyd
August 18, 2010
Women who use tampons may notice the insert about toxic shock syndrome. In the early 1980s toxic shock syndrome was all over the news media. Nearly 30 years later, we rarely hear about it. What is toxic shock syndrome and why do we need to be warned about it?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a very rare but potentially fatal illness caused by a complication of bacterial infection; primarily the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It occurs mostly in menstruating women who are using high absorbency tampons.
Although the exact connection is not crystal clear, many researchers suspect certain types of high-absorbency tampons provide a moist, warm home where bacteria can thrive. While TSS was originally linked to tampons, now it is also connected with contraceptive sponges and diaphragms.
Toxic shock syndrome hits hard. Shock, organ failure, and death have all been associated with TSS. Three percent of women who get TSS die from it. Toxic shock syndrome from staphylococcus starts suddenly, usually during or just after a period. Common symptoms include a high fever (sometimes accompanied by chills), vomiting, diarrhea, and a drop in blood pressure. Also muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, blood-shot eyes, confusion, a widespread rash that looks like sunburn, and skin peeling. Get immediate medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms, particularly during menstruation and tampon use.