TSS: What is toxic shock syndrome?
You’ve probably heard about a condition called toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and its link to using tampons. A lot of myths and fears have been spread about this, so it’s time to get our TSS facts straight for worry-free periods!
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is basically caused when bacteria enter the body and release harmful toxins.  While it is a serious condition, it is also very rare.
Although you may have heard it in relation to wearing tampons, TSS can affect people who use the diaphragm as contraception, have given birth, or use a menstrual cup. So there's no need to be scared of tampons themselves! After all, they can be real period lifesavers – so don’t give up on them just yet; it’s just a matter of being aware of TSS and following some tips to prevent it.
TSS symptoms: rashes and other things to look out for
Knowing how to recognise the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome is pretty important in staying safe and well – especially as there’s no single test for the condition. Some signs to watch out for include:
- a high fever (more than 39°C/100°F)
- light-headedness or dizziness
- a sunburn-like rash on the entire body
- vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- aching muscles or weakness
- bright red colouring of the eyes, throat or vagina
- confusion or disorientation 
How soon do toxic shock symptoms appear?Symptoms of TSS will usually appear about two days after infection, so if you’re on your period and you come down with one or more of these symptoms while using a tampon, remove it at once and consult a doctor.  But don’t forget, you can get the condition regardless of tampons, so always act swiftly if you start to feel unwell. Most people make a full recovery with the right treatment, so seeking medical help as soon as possible is a real essential.
What can I do to prevent TSS?
As we mentioned before, toxic shock syndrome is a rare condition, yet there is some advice you can follow, not only to minimise your risk of TSS, but for good period hygiene in general! Let’s take a look:
- It can be easy to forget to take tampons out – after all, they’re so comfortable that you can barely feel them! However, you should regularly change them and also make sure to remove them once your period finishes. Try putting a reminder on your phone or even getting a friend to check in with you so that you can be on top of changing your tampon.
- Try to use the smallest size tampon that works for your flow. While using a bigger size seems like the more practical option, using tampons that are too absorbent may mean that you leave them inside for longer, increasing the risk of TSS-causing bacteria.
- We can forget the simple stuff in day-to-day life, so make sure to be extra hygienic when using tampons; including washing your hands both before and after changing them.
It's natural to feel scared by what we don't quite understand, so wising up on how to use tampons and spot TSS is important to keep your mind at ease. At the end of the day, preventing toxic shock syndrome is actually quite easy when you have these things in mind! Now, whether you’re a tampon pro or have just started using tampons, why not continue learning about how to apply a tampon and which period products are right for you?
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.
 American Academy of Pediatrics. [Children in Out-Of-Home Care]. In: Kimberlin DW, Brady MT, Jackson MA, Long SS, eds. Red Book: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 30th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2015: 132-151