Unveiling The Truth Behind Toxic Shock Syndrome

When you first learned about the menstrual cycle at school, your teacher probably talked about the importance of a wellness exam and how you should avoid tampons because they can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). 35 years after Dr. James Todd’s discovery of the syndrome, the medical community knows more about the condition, yet there are many public misconceptions. Here’s an in-depth look at Toxic Shock Syndrome as we separate myth from fact.

What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare infection caused by a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus. Once it enters the bloodstream, this strain of bacteria will produce and release toxins throughout the body that can damage vital organs.

A common belief about TSS is that it only affects women and it happens all of the time, mainly because it has been directly related to tampon use. However, your gynecologist will tell you that’s false. TSS is rare and can affect men, women, and children. In fact, when Dr. Todd made the discovery, the first known case was found in a child.

Signs and Symptoms of TSS

While TSS may be a rare condition, it is still very dangerous and can be deadly when not detected early. Make an appointment for a wellness exam if you begin to experience any of the following symptoms:

– Muscle aches and fever
– Rash or redness of the eyes, throat, or mouth
– Seizures
– Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Also, if you begin to feel confused or feel like you can’t put two thoughts together, that can also be a sign of TSS. For women, it’s especially important to be cognizant of these symptoms if you use super absorbency tampons, feminine cups, or vaginal-inserted contraception. As a preventative measure, talk to your gynecologist about alternatives to vaginally inserted products.

Preventing Toxic Shock Syndrome

There are several steps you can take to prevent TSS. For women, using low absorbency tampons and sanitary napkins during your menstrual cycle is important. In addition, change your tampons every four to eight hours. If you have suffered from Toxic Shock Syndrome before, most likely your gynecologist is going to tell you to stay away from tampons because they will increase your risk of getting it again. Other preventative measures include proper handwashing and keeping paper cuts and surgical incisions, especially after a C-Section, clean and bandaged.

The best course of defense against Toxic Shock Syndrome is to have routine wellness exams with your gynecologist. Be honest with your physician. Share with them your concerns, your symptoms, and your menstrual habits. It may seem embarrassing, but they can help you avoid major health issues.

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