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What is Toxic Shock Syndrome and How to Avoid it

toxic shock syndrome - woman in black underwear and with red nail polish holding her stomachChances are you have heard the words toxic shock syndrome. Maybe on the leaflet in a tampon box (does anyone actually read those?) maybe from a friend, maybe on the TV.

In this blog, we are going to tell you what we know and have read about this condition. Hopefully with a little knowledge that you can use to avoid it happening to you. 

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome, also known as TSS for short, is a rare and life threatening condition. It is caused when bacteria gets into the body and releases harmful toxins.


Symptoms of Toxic Shock System tend to start suddenly and can very quickly get worse. According to the NHS website, symptoms can include:

If you notice any symptoms as above and suspect that you might have toxic shock syndrome it is important to get help as soon as possible.

You can call the out of hours GP, 111 or even quickly head over to A&E

Can you get toxic shock syndrome from tampons?

Rumour always dictates that tampons will give you Toxic Shock Syndrome and you should only wear them for short amounts of time. While Toxic Shock Syndrome is often associated with tampons, anyone can get it. Men, women and children of any age. 

However, the use of tampons can increase your risk. Particularly if you use super absorbent tampons and leave them in for longer than recommended. In such a warm and damp environment, leaving a tampon in too long can become a breeding ground for bacteria. This can lead to a load of problems like thrush, bacterial vaginosis and, in rare cases, Toxic Shock Syndrome.

What happens if you leave a tampon in for 3 days?

We wouldn’t recommend this, but if you do accidentally leave a tampon in for a few days it can become a hotspot for bacteria. Remove the tampon ASAP. If you notice any symptoms that relate to a yeast infection, Toxic Shock Syndrome or anything else out of the ordinary then call the doctor as soon as possible. 

Can I use tampons at night?

I have always heard that you should NEVER wear a tampon to sleep and that it is super bad for your body. This isn’t entirely true, you can sleep in a tampon, you don’t want to keep a tampon for longer than 8 hours. If you plan on a longer sleep than 8 hours then it is best to choose an alternative sanitary product, such as pads.

While they might not be so comfortable, they are safer if you are sleeping for longer than 8 hours. 

How to avoid toxic shock syndrome

It is so easy to reduce your chances of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome. One way to avoid TSS is by changing your tampon regularly. Make sure you are using the right absorbency for your flow so you remember to change it. 

If you are really worried about tampons and the low risk of getting TSS, you might want to switch to another sanitary product.

You might choose reusable pads, menstrual cups or regular pads. Whatever you choose, you still need to change them often to prevent bacteria building up and causing infections and other issues. 

Check out our blog on how to make your own reusable pads here.

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