All Things Periods

Let’s Talk About Toxic Shock Syndrome

If you reach for tampons during your period, listen up girl! It’s important to know about Toxic Shock Syndrome. It’s rare, but it’s a real and potentially life-threatening condition.

So, what exactly is it? A rare condition, caused by infection from certain types of bacteria – typically from Staphylococcus aureus (short version, staph). Basically, this bacteria produces and releases toxins into the bloodstream, which causes symptoms of shock. Being a kind of ‘biological poison’, these toxins can lead to organ and tissue damage which, if left untreated, can be fatal.

The thing is, staph is actually a common type of bacterium that can live in the nose and on the skin. In most cases, the simple presence of it is harmless – rather, it’s the toxin created by the bacteria that causes Toxic Shock Syndrome. And while anyone is at risk of being affected by TSS, it’s more common in women during that time of the month, as it’s believed to be associated with tampon use.

What are the symptoms? A sudden onset of ‘flu-like’ symptoms are very telling, and early recognition is key. Always listen to your body! During your period, if you suddenly begin to feel very ill, experience aches and pains, vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, fainting, dizziness, and/or a sunburn-like rash, stop using tampons and seek professional medical advice straight away. You don’t want to chance it with TSS.

Tell me more – how is Toxic Shock Syndrome caused, and how can I avoid it? It occurs from the overgrowth of bacteria producing large amounts of the TSS toxin, which then enter the bloodstream. While all of the underlying mechanisms of it aren’t 100% understood, it’s thought that the bacteria naturally present in the vagina can overgrow in the presence of a blood-soaked tampon.

Ok, so how is it treated? Toxic Shock Syndrome treatment means a hospital stay, using antibiotics to kill the infection and other medical support for any functions of the body that have been affected. If detected early on, treatment is usually successful.

We spoke to Byron Bay GP, Dr. Caryll O’Shaughnessy who summed it up nicely for us… “TSS is rare but potentially life-threatening. Safe tampon use can significantly reduce the risk of this serious bacterial infection – Things like washing your hands, replacing your tampon every 4-8 hours, consider using pads overnight.

“Getting treatment early is the best chance of cure, so seek help if you become unwell during that time of the month. Take a moment to read the info leaflet in your tampon packet. Remember information is power! And you can always talk to your Doctor or health profession if you have any concerns.”

So girls, if anything feels seriously amiss during that time of the month, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals!

Where to go for more information, support or help? Your GP or healthcare professionals are always the best starting point.


Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.

Odd Spot #413
Did you know?
The human female egg is the largest cell in the human body.