What is toxic shock syndrome?
Toxic shock syndrome or TSS is an acute, potentially life-threatening infectious disease. It occurs when a woman experiences a severe reaction of the immune system to bacterial toxins. TSS is a medical emergency.Toxic shock syndrome is very rare today
TSS is strongly associated with tampon use during or after menstruation. At the end of the 70s and early 80s, a peak occurred in the condition. This happened after a new type of superabsorbent tampon was placed on the market, which could be worn for more than 24 hours. After these tampons were withdrawn from the market, the number of cases of TSS decreased drastically. Today, TSS is very rare, mainly affecting women aged between 15 and 25 years.
TSS in older women, men and children
Toxic shock syndrome can also occur in older women, men and children, for example, when cotton pads are used after surgery in the throat, ear and nose areas. In addition, TSS may occur as a result of other (secondary) infections, for example, due to surgical procedures or shingles.
What causes TSS?
TSS by tampon use is generally caused by the Staphylococcus Aureus bacterium. This bacterium occurs in about ninety percent of all people in the nose, armpit, crotch or vagina. Normally it is are harmless, but under certain circumstances, such as the prolonged use of a tampon, certain Staphylococcus strains may produce toxins that are likely to spread through the blood in the body. This leads to acute, severe symptoms, including high fever, chills, overall malaise and red rashes. Without treatment, serious complications can occur.
Why some people are more prone to getting TSS than others isn’t entirely clear. It is believed that it is because not everybody has enough resistance to neutralise the poison of certain bacterial strains. The risk of toxic shock syndrome is greater for people who have had it before as it can recur.
The symptoms of TSS
The symptoms of TSS suddenly occur and are often extreme. They are often similar to common symptoms of menstruation but more intense. Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate TSS:
High fever (often more than 39 degrees Celsius)
Other flu-like symptoms, such as chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
Flat red skin rash throughout the body
Disorientation and confusion
Extreme drop in blood pressure
Within one week, untreated TSS can damage organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and the heart. It should always be treated as a medical emergency.
How is TSS treated?
The treatment of TSS depends on the severity of the condition and the stage in which it is found. Severe TSS is treated with antibiotics. The patient may need medication to stabilise low blood pressure and an intravenous drip to deliver antibiotics and fluids to combat dehydration. Renal dialysis, the administration of blood products and/or additional oxygen may also be necessary.
What can you do to prevent TSS?
You can reduce the risk of TSS caused by tampon use during menstruation by following the following tips:
Do not use a tampon if you have had problems in the past with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Do not use tampons throughout the menstrual period, but change them with sanitary pads (for example at night).[/li]
Use tampons only during menstruation and not to absorb vaginal discharge
Only use low absorbency tampons. Replace these regularly: every 4-8 hours and in heavy menstruation every 2-3 hours or more.
Always wash your hands and after the insertion and removal of a tampon.
Sources: Healthline, Nhs