There was a lot of press about Toxic Shock Syndrome back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, however nowadays you never see much about it, aside from the little leaflets you may find inside of a tampon box. Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is most commonly associated with tampon use, specifically the use of super-absorbent tampons, and it remains a fact that about half of all TSS cases are tampon related. What you may not know is that Toxic Shock Syndrome can affect anyone – men, women and children. Aside from tampon use, Toxic Shock Syndrome has also been associated with the contraceptive sponge and diaphragm, cuts, scrapes, a blood infection called septicemia, surgical wounds, and even chickenpox blisters.
Toxic Shock Syndrome is classified as a systemic illness, meaning it affects the entire body. It can be caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (commonly referred to as Staph), which produce toxins. Another bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes, which is even more rare, is another cause of TSS. People who cannot fight these toxins become sick. Although this condition is rare, it can be a dangerous and potentially fatal condition.
Signs and symptoms of TSS develop very suddenly. Symptoms can include: Sudden high fever of at least 102 degrees Fahrenheit, a drop in blood pressure which may be associated with fainting or feeling faint, sunburn like rash, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, confusion, and pale, cool, clammy skin.
You should call your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome, especially if you are having your period or if it has just ended and you have been using tampons. Doctors typically diagnose TSS by doing a physical exam and conducting blood tests that assess liver and kidney function, in order to rule out any other possible conditions. If they determine that it is TSS, treatment could involve hospitalization and antibiotics.
The best way to prevent tampon associated TSS is by using the lowest absorbency tampon possible and by alternating tampon use with the use of sanitary pads. Change tampons frequently, at least every four to eight hours. If you use tampons when sleeping, try to remember to change to a fresh one just before bed and change it as soon as you wake. It is also a good idea to store your supply of tampons in a cool, dry area, since the heat and moisture of a bathroom are breeding grounds for bacteria. If you have had TSS before, you should not use tampons.
Hand washing is very important in preventing the spread of bacteria that causes TSS and other infections, so try to remember to take extra care when washing your hands, especially during your period, and always wash before changing your tampon. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap, scrubbing for a full 15 seconds before rinsing and drying. Taking just a few precautions can help to prevent your chances of getting TSS.
The author writes on various subjects and has a site on Women's Issues and a blog called ladies-united.
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