Amy Elifritz was 20 years old when she died,June 13, 2010, from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
She was on her period and using tampons containing super absorbent fibers when she became ill with what at first appeared to be the flu.
After Amy’s death, her mother, Lisa, founded YouARELoved to raise awareness about tampon related Toxic Shock Syndrome and to provide information about alternative (and safer) menstrual options.
As a survivor of TSS, I should not have been shocked to learn of Amy’s death – but I was. I thought tampon relatedTSSwas a thing of the past.
It scares me to know TSS has returned and is once again claiming young lives. It should scare you, too, especially if you have young daughters or granddaughters. Young women have not yet developed the ability to protect them from the toxin that causes tampon related TSS. And, they are the ones most likely to misuse tampons and misunderstand the proper use of them.
You see, it’s not enough to avoid using the same tampon for over 6 hours. Within 2 hours the bacteria that produce the toxin that causes TSS are already at work. And, even if the tampon is removed at 2 hours, if another is inserted the bacteria continue to grow and produce the toxin.
To lower the risk, tampons must be alternated with pads – this allows the body time to clear the toxin and prevents the continued growth of the toxin causing bacteria. Simply put, alternating pads and tampons stops the cycle. Also, tampons should never be used for sleep/overnight. That’s simply too long for a tampon to be in. Pads or menstrual cups are far safer choices for overnight use.
Many women mistakenly assume tampons containing super absorbent fibres are their best menstrual option, but there are MANY safer alternatives – disposable and reusable pads, organic 100% cotton tampons, disposable and reusable cups, sponges and period panties.
Understanding that some choose to continue using tampons containing super absorbent fibres after learning of the risk ofTSSand of the safer menstrual options available, and certain that I don’t want Amy’s story to become yours or that of someone you love, I would be remiss if I failed to provide you with information about tampon related TSS, the symptoms, and what to do if you suspect it.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic Shock Syndrome develops when the common bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus, produces a toxin which is absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxin rapidly overwhelms the immune system and attacks the major organs, leading to kidney failure, collapse of the lungs and in severe cases, cardiac arrest.
Symptoms of TSS
- Sore throat
- Aching muscles
- High temperature; over 102 degrees F
- Watery diarrhea
- Red rash
- Very low blood pressure
It’s important to know that only one or two symptoms may occur. They do not necessarily occur all at once and may not persist.
What You Should Do?
- Remove the tampon (save it if possible)
- Seek IMMEDIATE medical attention
- Inform the doctor that you have been using tampons
- Take aTSSinformation leaflet with you
To Reduce the Risk of TSS
- Only use tampons made of organic cotton
- Use the lowest absorbency needed at each stage of your period
- Avoid using tampons continuously during a period. Alternate with sanitary pads at night so the toxins have time to dissipate
- Use a pad at the end of your period
- Change tampons every 4 to 6 hours
- Don’t use tampons if you’ve had any unusual discharge
- Wash your hands before and after use and handle the tampon as little as possible
- Alert your family and friends to the symptoms and emergency action required
- Read and keep this information and/or the leaflet inside each box of tampons
- If you’ve hadTSSnever use tampons again
For more information about tampon related TSS, to learn more about Amy and her mom, or for more information about safer menstrual options, visit our website. I encourage you to download our informational brochure and then share this information with your friends and family.
Bio: Suzan Hutchinson is a survivor ofTSS and Director of Connectivity for YouARE Loved. She wants every woman to beTSS aware and empowered to make informed decisions regarding safe and healthy menstruation.