TSS Information

Important Health Information

Tampon use has been associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) a rare but serious condition that may cause death. It is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus Aureus, which exists normally in the air. Sometimes strains of this bacterium give off a toxin (poison that gets into the body), usually through the bloodstream. Most people develop resistance to the toxin and in these people there is no harmful effect.

The reported risk is higher in women under 30 years of age and teenage girls. The indicative ratio of TSS illness is estimated to be between 1 and 17 cases per 100,000 menstruating women and girls per year.

TSS can occur without tampons but has been connected with the use of tampons. TSS can be fatal and must therefore be recognised and treated early. If you have ever had TSS you should not use tampons until you have discussed it with your Doctor.

TSS Symptoms

The symptoms of TSS can appear suddenly during or just after menstruation and they closely resemble the flu. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling very ill, headache, muscular pains.
  • A sudden high fever and chills
  • (39°C or higher).
  • Vomiting or diarrhea, or both.
  • Dizziness, fainting, weakness or confusion.
  • A rash that looks like you have a nasty sunburn.

Guidelines for safe tampon use to help reduce the risk of TSS

  • Make sure you have washed your hands thoroughly before handling tampons.
  • Only use one tampon at a time.
  • Don’t force a tampon to fit inside your vagina.
  • Use the lowest absorbency to suit your flow.
  • Use the tampon immediately after unwrapping it and don’t handle tampons more than necessary, or place it on any surface.
  • Remove the used tampon before inserting the next one and always remove the last tampon used at the end of your period.
  • Change your tampon regularly (every 4 hours is a good guide).
  • Only use a tampon when you are menstruating. Using a tampon when you don’t have your period can cause dryness and irritation and will absorb the protective mucous that your vagina produces to keep it clean.

For more information about TSS visit www.dermnetnz.org