Why Toxic Shock Syndrome is Way Scarier Than it Sounds

Periods are a part of life; while there aren't necessarily risks involved with menstruation, using vaginal products like tampons incorrectly can be fatal. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), is an infection caused by the release of bacteria that can occur when tampons are left in the body for too long. While it's not very common to contract this infection, it does happen such as in the well-known case of model Lauren Wasser. Here are some ways you can prevent and combat TSS.

What causes TSS?

TSS occurs when bacteria, specifically Staphylococcus Aureus, enter the bloodstream from a cut or orifice. One theory is that tampons breed bacteria when left in the body for longer than the recommended time of eight hours, according to healthline.com. Other ways the bacteria can enter your body and form this infection include complications from surgery, childbirth and through open wounds. Symptoms include low blood pressure, fever, nausea and a rash. Since TSS is linked to tampon use, it may seem that only menstruating women can contract this infection, but that's totally not the case. Postmenstrual women, children and men can contract TSS from the other factors, excluding menstruation products.

How can I prevent it?

Make sure to remove your tampon before the recommended maximum time limit. In the 1980s, TSS was more prevalent as there wasn't as much knowledge about how to safely use tampons. Thankfully, now due to an increase in education and stricter regulations on the tampon industry, it occurs much less frequently. About one in 100,000 women who still have their period are affected by TSS today, states the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

Related: Sex Education is Actually SO Important & Here's Why

Lauren Wasser - from victim to advocate

Model Lauren Wasser recently lost both of her legs due to a prolonged infection of toxic shock syndrome and has made it her mission is to educate others on how to prevent TSS. In 2012, she forgot to take her tampon out and later suffered a heart attack due to organ failure. She was found at her apartment by a friend and taken to the hospital where she was told that her right leg required amputation. Earlier this year, she lost her left leg due to further complications. She is using her experience to enter the political field and is advocating for more research to be done in the safety aspect of hygiene products.

“It’s transparency I’m looking for...I think being more honest with the general public about the risks and educating them on using the products, signs to look out for … The vagina is the most absorbent part of the woman’s body. If you have a toxic tampon you put it in the most absorbent part your body it goes straight to your bloodstream,” said Wasser in an interview with People magazine.

I think I have TSS – what now?

It's rare to contract TSS nowadays, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Once symptoms begin to appear, a visit to the doctor’s office is incredibly vital. There, the bacterial infection will be fought using antibiotics, fluids and medicine to raise blood pressure, says Time magazine.

Remember that period health is important too, and educating yourself about issues like TSS is the best way to stay safe. We hope this helps!