We’ve all heard of Toxic Shock Syndrome. We’ve seen the warnings on tampon boxes, but do you know what it actually means?

We asked our favourite GP, the lovely and very frank and honest, Dr Sharon O’Donnell…..

-What is it?

Sounds scary. Well it is, but it’s very rare. It is an overwhelming infection of your body with staphylococcal or sometimes streptococcal bacteria that release toxic substances and cause severe potentially fatal illness.  It can be caused by a number of things. It is most notoriously and commonly caused by the use of tampons for too long or forgotten tampons. Leaving a tampon in for more than 8 hours is therefore not recommended.

However, it can also happen when these types of bacteria get though open skin or wounds and can affect men and women of all ages.

What are the symptoms?

Feeling very unwell with a high temperature, flu like symptoms of aches and pains and a bright red rash like sunburn affecting soles of feet and palms of hands, red eyes, low blood pressure, confusion, diarrhoea and vomiting, headache and seizures sometimes.

-How do I know I have it?

If you feel really unwell you should see your doctor anyway. If you have recently used tampons mention it.

A tampon which has been inserted and not removed is a potential source of infection. A tampon cannot be lost inside you and your doctor will always find it if it’s there if you can’t.

Your doctor may need to do blood tests, but treatment is usually in hospital.

-How is it treated?

Treatment is with antibiotics and full recovery usually occurs but in severe cases organ failure and death can occur.

Thankfully this is extremely rare nowadays and shouldn’t put anyone off using tampons. Always wash your hands before and after inserting or removing a tampon, change regularly and don’t leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours. Using a sanitary towel overnight is preferable but tampons may be used if flow is very heavy once they are changed regularly.

Good to know! Thanks Doc x

Supported By

Our Pro bono Partners