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TSS: Are You at Risk?

Most of the women I know use tampons when they have their periods. They're discreet, easy to use, and make things like swimming, exercising, and sleeping so much more comfortable. Once a month, I raise my bar of chocolate in thanks to the marvelous inventor of tampons.

If you use tampons regularly, you've got to be aware of your risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). This condition is rare, but since it is life threatening, you should know the facts.

TSS is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph). These bacteria are common and cause conditions such as strep throat or impetigo. Rarely these toxins enter the bloodstream and can cause TSS.

Some researchers believe that keeping high absorbency tampons inside you for a long time can put you at risk because they become a breeding ground for the bacteria. Others suggest that tampons can stick to the skin inside of your vagina, and when you pull it out, the skin can tear or get scratched allowing the bacteria to enter the bloodstream. If that happens, it can cause a sharp drop in blood pressure, depriving vital organs of oxygen, which could lead to death.

Want to know what you can do to reduce your risk? Then

  • Don't use tampons at all.
  • If that's not an option, be sure to change your tampon frequently, at least every four to six hours.
  • Use the the lowest absorbency that you need. The higher the absorbency, the greater the risk.
  • Consider alternating between pads and tampons, and use pads when your flow is really light.
  • If you use a diaphragm, don't leave it in more than 24 hours.
  • If you use a cervical cap, don't leave it in more than 48 hours.


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