How do you catch toxic shock syndrome?

Bacteria caused by tampons

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is caused by toxins released by some common strains of bacteria, in particular S. aureus bacteria, which make up one fifth of staphylococcus aureus and produce TSST-1 toxins.Once in the body, these toxins, will attack various organs such as the liver, kidneys or lungs, and leave the patient extremely weak. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is part of the normal human flora but can also become a significant cause of infection. 
This is known as menstrual toxic shock, as some menstrual products such as tampons or menstrual cups cause blood to pool in the vagina. This is a favourable environment for the bacteria to multiply. As a result, the bacteria will produce dangerous toxins that will enter the bloodstream.
Toxic shock syndrome is still rare, but its increase worries scientists because they cannot find an explanation.
Toxic shock syndrome was brought to light in 2012 by the American Lauren Wasser, who had her right leg amputated after contracting toxic shock syndrome. In the early 1980s, more than 700 women in North America suffered from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). In January 2020, a 17-year-old Belgian woman died after contracting the disease due to a misdiagnosis. 


What are the symptoms of toxic shock? 

The toxic shock syndrome is characterised by several symptoms: a sudden fever of 39 ° or more, vomiting and diarrhea, a feeling of ill-being with a headache and a rash that looks like a sunburn. If you experience these symptoms, remove your period protection as quickly as possible and go to the hospital.

Why is toxic shock syndrome contracted from tampons and cups? 

The vaginal mucosa that keeps a tampon in for too long is more fragile. As a result, it is more prone to irritation which can cause lesions that facilitate the passage of staphylococci or toxins into the body.
For Staphylococcus aureus to develop toxins, it needs a favourable culture medium: this is where the relationship with tampons, cup comes in.
Suppose the tampon is kept for too long or its absorption capacity is too high. In that case the blood remains in the body at room temperature (36/37°).
It stagnates and dramatically favours the development of bacteria that spreads in the bloodstream.

How to avoid toxic shock syndrome?

If you use tampons or cups:
  • Do not use tampons if you do not need them. It is forbidden to wear them outside of your period. Put on an Elia period panties to protect yourself from minor leaks or for reassurance.
  • Use tampons with very low absorbency and change them regularly. You can put on your Elia panties if you are afraid of leakage.
  • Change tampons every 4 to 6 hours. Same for the cup by disinfecting/sterilising it as much as possible.
  • Do not wear tampons or cups at night.
  • Wash your hands before each handling of a tampon or a cup.

To avoid toxic shock syndrome, we advise you to not use tampons but to favour external sanitary protection, such as our Elia menstrual panties.  However, we recommend you to keep it for a maximum of 12 hours. Once again, to prevent the blood from stagnating for too long. 

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