If you’ve ever used a tampon, you’ve probably read about Toxic Shock Syndrome (or TSS) on the paper insert that comes with your tampon pack, but leaving a tampon in for too long isn’t the only potential cause of TSS.
In December 2018, American gymnast Anna Norquist made headlines when she contracted TSS and tragically had to have her left leg and right arm amputated, but her TSS wasn’t caused by tampon use. There is such a thing as non-menstrual related TSS, and it’s actually more common in the UK than menstrual-related TSS.
TSS is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus (commonly called Strep A) which exists harmlessly on the skin and in the nose and mouth, but can cause major problems if it enters the bloodstream and releases toxins. If left untreated, TSS can result in the mass shedding of skin, hair loss, amputation and, in extreme cases, even death. If diagnosed early on, it is entirely treatable.
The symptoms to watch out for include:
- A widespread sunburn-like rash
- The whites of the eyes, lips and tongue turning bright red
- A fever of 39C or above
- Flu-like symptoms (headache, chills, muscle aches, a sore throat and a cough)
- Feeling and being sick
- Difficulty breathing
While TSS is not common and instances of it are not high, it is a serious condition and one which women who use tampons should be kept aware of – just in case.