If you’re a girl who’s had her periods you may have heard frightening stories about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a serious illness originally linked to the use of tampons. But Toxic Shock Syndrome isn’t strictly related to tampons. The contraceptive sponge and the diaphragm, two types of birth control methods, have been linked to TSS. And, sometimes, the infection has occurred as a result of wounds or surgery, where the skin has been broken, allowing bacteria to enter. Toxic Shock Syndrome can happen to anyone — men, women and even children — and it can be serious, and fatal if not treated. If you’re concerned about Toxic Shock Syndrome the smartest thing you can do is to take some precautions.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome ?
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a systemic illness, which means that it affects the whole body. It can be caused by one of two different types of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes — although toxic shock that is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria is rarer. These bacteria can produce toxins. In some people whose bodies can’t fight these toxins, the immune system reacts. This reaction causes the symptoms associated with TSS.
When people think of Toxic Shock Syndrome, they often think of tampon usage. That’s because the earliest cases of the illness, back in the late 70s, were related to super absorbent tampons. Research led to better tampons and better habits for using them — such as changing tampons more often. The number of TSS cases dropped dramatically.
What Causes Toxic Shock Syndrome
Today about half of all Toxic Shock Syndrome cases are linked to menstruation apart from tampon use, TSS has been linked to skin infections that are typically minor and can be associated with the chickenpox rash. Toxic Shock Syndrome has also been reported following surgical procedures, giving birth, and prolonged use of nasal packing for nose bleeds.
Toxic Shock Syndrome Causes are as follows :-
- Poisonous Toxins released by extremely common families of bacteria called Staphylococcus, Streptococcus,and Clostridium cause TSS
- Toxic shock syndrome can occur when women use tampons, especially super-absorbent ones
- Women who leave a diaphragm in place for more than 24 hours are also at an increased risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
- Cases of Streptococcus infection usually arise following surgery, but sometimes infections of the skin can result in Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Incidents due to Clostridium infections more commonly occur after childbirth and medical abortions.
Signs Of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Many people with toxic shock syndrome show signs and mild symptoms, two to three days before they develop the disease. The initial signs Of Toxic Shock Syndrome include :-
- Muscle aches
- A feeling of general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill health
- Abdominal pain
- Sore Throat
- Headache (very common)
- Widespread red rash
Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms
Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome occur suddenly. As it’s an illness that is caused by a toxin, many of the body’s systems are affected.
The symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome include :-
- High fever of 39°C to 40.5°C (102°F to 105°F)
- Rapid drop in blood pressure (with light-headedness or fainting)
- Sunburn-like rash on the entire body.
- Vomiting and watery diarrhea
- Severe muscle aches or weakness
- Bright red coloring of the eyes, throat, and vagina
- Headache, confusion, disorientation, or seizures
- Kidney and other organ failure
The average time before symptoms appear for Toxic Shock Syndrome is 2-3 days after an infection with Staphylococcus or Streptococcus, although this can vary depending on the cause of the infection.
How To Prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome
You can reduce the risk by simply taking some common sense precautions:
- Clean and bandage any skin wounds
- Change bandages regularly, rather than keeping them on for several days.
- Check wounds for signs of infection. If a wound gets red, swollen, painful, or tender, or if you develop a fever, call your doctor right away.
- If you are a girl whose period has started, the best way to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome is to use sanitary napkins instead of tampons.
- For girls who prefer to use tampons, select the ones with the lowest absorbency that can handle your menstrual flow and change them frequently. You can also alternate the use of tampons with sanitary napkins. If you’ve already had an episode of TSS or have been infected with S. aureus, don’t use tampons or contraceptive devices that have been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (such as diaphragms and contraceptive sponges).
- Observing good general hygiene, especially around the vagina
- Removing the last tampon as soon as the menstrual bleeding ends
- Wearing external pads at night
How Rare Is Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but serious medical condition. The number of reported cases has declined significantly since the 1980s. Patrick Schlievert, who published a study on it in 2004, determined incidence at 3 to 4 out of 100,000 tampon users per year. As per manufacturers of sanitary products like Tampax and Stayfree, the disease impacts 1 to 17 of every 100,000 menstruating people per year. However, California & Minnesota has reported rise in cases and 4-8 deaths in the period 2000-2003.
Toxic Shock Syndrome Treatment
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a medical emergency. If you think you (or someone you know) may have Toxic Shock Syndrome, consult a doctor right away.
Depending on the symptoms, a doctor may refer you to the emergency department for immediate evaluation and testing. If doctors suspect Toxic Shock Syndrome, they will probably start intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics as soon as possible. They may take a sample from the suspected site of the infection, such as the skin, nose or vagina, to check it for Toxic Shock Syndrome. They may also take a blood sample. Other blood tests can help monitor how various organs like the kidneys are working and check for other diseases that may be causing the symptoms. Medical staff remove tampons, contraceptive devices or wound packing; clean any wounds; and, if there is a pocket of infection (called an abscess), a doctor may need to drain pus from the infected area. People with TSS typically need to stay in hospital, often in the intensive care unit, for several days to closely monitor blood pressure, respiratory status, and to look for signs of other problems, such as organ damage.
Infected wounds will be cleaned and infected tissue may be removed if needed. Antibiotics are given intravenously (into a vein) to reduce the risk of the infection recurring. Human antibodies (immunoglobulin) may also help for severe cases.