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TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME
AND TAMPONS

WHAT IS TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare bacterial-caused illness occurringmostly in menstruating women who are using high absorbency tampons.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

The main cause of TSS is a common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. Itis thought the bacteria produces toxins (poisons) that cause symptoms ofTSS. Tampons may facilitate the infection because their use may causelacerations and ulcerations of the vaginal wall which allow bacteria toenter. Super absorbent tampons are especially dangerous, since in somecases they expand so much they actually adhere to the vaginal wall. When the tampon is removed, a layer of the vaginal lining may be scrapedor peeled off.

WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms of TSS occur suddenly, usually during or just after a menstrualperiod. The more common symptoms include a high fever (over 102o F.),vomiting, diarrhea, a sunburn-like rash, and drop in blood pressure. Muscular aches and pains, headaches, sore throat, blood shot eyes,confusion, and peeling of the skin on the palms and soles may alsoappear. These symptoms are important and require prompt medicalattention.

IS IT SERIOUS?

Yes, TSS is a potentially life-threatening infection. Shock, kidneyand liver failure, and death have all been associated with TSS. Threepercent of women who get TSS die from it.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

If TSS is suspected, hospitalization is recommended, as there is no wayof predicting which individuals with early TSS will develop severemedical problems. The physician will order anti-staphylococcalantibiotics, as well as intravenous fluids to counteract low bloodpressure and fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals who getproper treatment usually get well within 2-3 weeks.

CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

The risk of TSS can be greatly reduced by following the recommendedtampon guidelines:

NEW TAMPON ABSORBENCY LABELING

As of March, 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiringall tampons to be labeled with the following terms, which correspond toa specific range of absorbency.

ABSORBENCY TERM                   RANGE OF FLUID ABSORBED IN GRAMS      Junior absorbency                          Under 6      Regular absorbency                          6 to 9      Super absorbency                            9 to 12      Super Plus absorbency                       12 to 15

This standardization allows women to compare absorbencies among brands. Choosing the least absorbent tampon needed reduces the risk ofcontracting Toxic Shock Syndrome.

REMEMBER:


REFERENCES:

Boston Women's Health Collective. (1987, July). Toxic shock: It'sstill with us, and the mystery lingers. Glamour, p. 202-3.

Department of Health and Human Services. (1990). Using new tamponabsorbency labeling to help prevent toxic shock syndrome. Rockville,MD: Author.

Dunton, S. & Miller, K. (1986). Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), CounselFile: A Self-Health Management Guide. Tucson, AZ: Well AwareAbout Health.


If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and theinformation in this handout, you are advised to contact your health careprovider.

(c) The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 1995

Written by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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