What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome? Why It's Important For Women To Know The Truth About TSS — And How To Prevent It

When it comes to our health, knowledge is power.

What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome? Why It's Important For Women To Know The Truth About TSS — And How To Prevent It

Periods and menstruation are two related health topics that prompt many questions from women. We are curious about what happens during our menstrual cycle. We wonder what PMS is, if it is actually a real thing, and what we can do about it. Can we get pregnant on our periods? What are the signs of an irregular period? What is toxic shock syndrome? The list goes on.

Although we have the internet and loads of information at our fingertips, many women are unaware of many of the aspects about menstruation and more importantly, crucial health risks that we need to look out for.


Even though it is a common part of womanhood, enduring our period is never fun and odds are we have all used some rough curse words while experiencing painful menstrual cramps. 

Related: 10 Weird Things That Happen When You Ovulate

During that time of the month, women use products including tampons, pads, or both. Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is also referred to as TSS, has long-been associated with the use of tampons, a product we don't normally think of as a possible health risk — but they can be. TSS is caused by tampons that are not changed often enough and can have serious effects on a woman's health.


What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Although rare, Toxic Shock Syndrome is still a deadly condition, which is caused by bacteria that can produce toxins or poisons in the body. The Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacterias can cause infections in the blood that can quickly become life-threatening.

TSS casued by fememnine hygeine products does not make up the majority of Toxic Shock Syndrome cases. However, TSS  is still something that women need to be mindful of since it is still a risk factor and there are women who continue to be affected by it.

Menstruation-related cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome are not as prevalent as they were during the syndrome's rise in the 1970s, which has created a lack of knowledge about the issue. Since the 70s, many tampon and feminine hygiene brands have come out with safer products, but without proper safety practices, the dangerous health risks still remain.

RELATED: Why The Best Tampon Alternative Is The Softcup Menstrual Cup


What are the symptoms of TSS?

All women should be aware of the symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you think you may be experiencing TSS symptoms, it is highly recommended to call your doctor, 911, or go to the hospital immediately.

Toxic Shock Syndrome symptoms include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

Being aware of the symptoms of TSS can potentially save your life in the off-chance you develop it. Knowledge is key when it come to your mental health, and you know your body best.

How to prevent TSS.

The best safety practice to prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome when using tampons is to make sure to change your tampon at least every four to eight hours and avoid using them at night. It is also important to wash your hands before and after insterting tampons, as the bacteria associated with TSS is often found on hands.


This is also encouraged for other items inserted into the vagina including menstrual cups, cervical caps, sponges, and diaphragms. These products have different lengths of time they are suggested to be removed by, so it is important to do your research prior to using them in order reduce the risk of getting TSS.

RELATED: How To Know If Your Period Cramps Are Normal

Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and Michigan native who covers trending topics, pop culture and astrology. When she’s not writing for YourTango, she is also a travel blogger and an actress.