Girls continue to stay misinformed about Toxic Shock Syndrome

The menstrual cycle is pretty scary. Period.

The crimson shock of womanhood is bad enough-without the rumors and horror stories of Toxic Shock Syndrome (also known as TSS) roaming our halls. Because discussing periods is casually considered crude or taboo, many adolescent girls are misinformed about their health and are even scared of their own bodies.

TSS is most commonly perceived as a mysterious and deadly illness that will occur due to the usage of a tampon. Many girls are advised to avoid even attempting to wear tampons for this very reason.

Even though girls are limiting their options, they still seem unclear on what TSS even is, and how probable it really is.

The bathroom rumors about falling victim to this illness began when model, Lauren Wasser, lost her leg because of a toxic shock syndrome complication. She became the spokeswoman of awareness to this issue, and even filed a lawsuit against Kotex (the brand that caused her reaction).

Her harrowing story and campaigns for awareness sparked fear in women everywhere, and the common myth was born.

I don’t know about you, but my mom was pretty religious about her hesitance to my sister or me using tampons because of the threat of TSS. The older girls in middle school reaffirmed this fear when the few hushed locker room discussions about periods swore against it.

For far too long, it has been perceived that wearing a tampon for more than three/four hours will endanger you with the possibility of TSS. Girls still limit their options or miss out on activities from fear.

“It’s just kind of passed down to us, and we take it as it’s said. It’s not really a topic that we can usually talk about with a lot of people,” junior and fellow uterus carrier Mahek Maharaj said.

Toxic Shock Syndrome itself is caused by the release of poisonous substances from an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (referred to as staph) or even rarely Streptococcus pyogenes (often called strep), which is found in many women’s bodies.

However, it can actually occur in men and children too, because it isn’t a specificity to periods but can also occur due to post-surgery hygiene complications.

The thing is, the staph bacteria is already harmlessly present in most vaginas. It only becomes harmful in cases of super absorbent tampons for a surplus of hours.

This means your average tampon can’t kill you.

“There are only around 40 cases of TSS a year in the UK, according to UK Public Health Laboratory Service. Most doctors will never see a patient with it – but in extreme cases people can die. In the UK, it’s around two to three per year,” a January 2015 article from The Telegraph said.

The Telegraph also stated that only about half the reported TSS cases are related to women using tampons, the rest tend to be from infections from other causes.

“It is important to remember that this is a very rare syndrome with a reported incidence of 3-4 cases per 100,000 tampon users each year. Historically it has been associated with super absorbent tampons from certain manufacturers. Most of those tampons were pulled from the market once their association with TSS was made,” Michelle Gooch, MD, from The OB/GYN Group of Austin said.

So what can we gain from this knowledge? It shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid TSS, because our chances are pretty slim, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to be as safe and hygienic as we can be.

Gooch describes that wearing the lowest absorbency tampon that is effective (for no longer than recommended on the box) is essential, and to especially avoid wearing tampons overnight.

We should never limit ourselves due to misinformed or rumored fear, and we should always be on the hunt for the truth about our health. The conversations that we avoid or that make us uncomfortable, are the ones that we grow the most from.