changing the world, one period at a time.

Understanding and Preventing Toxic Shock Syndrome

Understanding and Preventing Toxic Shock Syndrome

You may have heard about toxic shock syndrome, but how much do you really know?

For some, their knowledge may only be to the extent of, “Don’t keep your tampon in for too long”. For others, they may know more! 

But what is toxic shock syndrome? How do you get it, and how can you prevent it?

Toxic shock syndrome, or TSS, is a rare, but life-threatening, complication of certain bacterial infections. It’s caused by the release of toxins from an overgrowth of bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, or staph). The prolonged residence of a tampon inside the vagina is the most common cause of TSS, as a tampon saturated by blood tends to be a supportive place for rapid bacterial growth. However, toxic shock syndrome has also been linked to the usage of diaphragms, cervical caps, menstrual sponges and on rare occasions with menstrual cups. 

When used in a clean and sanitary environment a menstrual cup poses very little risk of toxic shock syndrome. It is important that the focus of washing the hands before use be just as important as the washing of the cup. Due to the fact that the menstrual cup does not expel toxins or absorb blood means that the risk of TSS is much less. Due to the few cases of TSS with menstrual cups we do not have accurate information of the number of registered incidents. Just know that a menstrual cup is the cleaner, less toxic option when used with good hygiene practices and clean running water. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours. If left in longer than 8 hours, menstruators begin to run the risk of infection and possible toxic shock syndrome. 

Signs and symptoms of TSS can include sudden and high fevers, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, a red, flat rash on large portions of the body, muscle aches, red eyes, mouth, or throat, seizures, and headaches.

Although this infection is rare, it is life-threatening. Besides changing your tampon frequently, what else can you do to prevent it?

Tampons are a convenient menstrual product choice, and a common one too. However, it’s important to be informed of other options. In addition to pads, both disposable and reusable, and period panties, menstrual cups have become increasingly popular. Made of silicone, menstrual cups are a flexible cup-shaped menstrual product that is inserted into the vagina using a fold method. Best part? You can leave your cup in for up to 12 hours with no worries! There are multiple shapes, sizes, colors, and brands for you to choose from. Here at Divine Drops we have what we call “The Divine Drop”, our own brand of menstrual cup, available at multiple prices to be as accessible as possible. 

Ultimately, it is important to practice safe tampon-usage habits and be informed of what could put you at risk. We don’t want any toxic shock in our system! 

Divine drops was started by a registered nurse who was personally feeling the pain and mental struggle of hormone imbalance and cycle shame. After traveling as a nurse she realized that the problem was bigger than just her. Girls all over the world were experiencing similar feelings but even worse they lacked the products needed to live a powerful period. This was limiting their future and full potential.

Since then she started Divine Drops, a nonprofit that provides cycle education and sustainable menstrual products to menstruators all over the world. You can make a purchase or donation today to help change the cycle.