Guest Post – Toxic Shock Syndrome – What You Need to Know

This is a Guest Post

Toxic Shock Syndrome – What You Need to Know

June 13, 2010, Amy Elifritz died from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) at age 20.

Amy was on her period and using tampons containing super absorbent fibers when she became ill.  Everyone thought she had the flu.

After Amy’s death, her mother, Lisa, founded You ARE Loved to raise awareness about tampon related Toxic Shock Syndrome and to provide factual menstrual information. 

A long time survivor of TSS myself, I was shocked to learn that TSS has returned and is once again claiming young lives.

And, as a mother of a daughter I am deeply concerned. 

You see, since launching the You ARE Loved website we have posted several stories of girls and young women who have experienced tampon related TSS in recent years. 

Janelle was only 14 when she developed TSS.  Sarah and Brittany were 15.  Alex was 16.  Katelyn was 17. Amanda was 19.  Lauren was 20. Shenikwa was in college. Nikki died of TSS at 21. Heather was a new mom.

Many women mistakenly assume tampons containing super absorbent fibers are their best menstrual option, and the best option for their daughters, but there are MANY safer alternatives – disposable and reusable pads, organic 100% cotton tampons, disposable and reusable cups, sponges and period panties. 

Understanding that some choose to continue using tampons containing super absorbent fibers after learning of the risk of TSS and of the safer menstrual options available, and certain that I don’t want Amy’s story to become yours or that of someone you love, I would be remiss if I failed to provide you with information about tampon related TSS, the symptoms, and what to do if you suspect it. 

Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxic Shock Syndrome develops when the common bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus, produces a toxin which is absorbed into the bloodstream. The toxin rapidly overwhelms the immune system and attacks the major organs, leading to kidney failure, collapse of the lungs and in severe cases, cardiac arrest. 

Symptoms of TSS

* Sore throat

* Aching muscles

* High temperature; over 102 degrees F 

* Vomiting

* Headache

* Watery diarrhea

* Red rash

* Confusion

* Dizziness

* Very low blood pressure

It’s important to know that only one or two symptoms may occur. They do not necessarily occur all at once and may not persist. 

What You Should Do?

* Remove the tampon (save it if possible)

* Seek IMMEDIATE medical attention

* Inform the doctor that you have been using tampons

* Take a TSS information leaflet with you

To Reduce the Risk of TSS

* Only use tampons made of organic cotton

* Use the lowest absorbency needed at each stage of your period

* Avoid using tampons continuously during a period. Alternate with sanitary pads at night so the toxins have time to dissipate

* Use a pad at the end of your period

* Change tampons every 4 to 6 hours

* Don’t use tampons if you’ve had any unusual discharge

* Wash your hands before and after use and handle the tampon as little as possible

* Alert your family and friends to the symptoms and emergency action required

* Read and keep this information and/or the leaflet inside each box of tampons

* If you’ve had TSS never use tampons again

Inside each box of tampons is a TSS warning/information leaflet. Please take a moment and read it. Or, view You ARE Loved’s informational brochure and then share this information with your family and friends.

I hope you will visit our website and take a moment to look over the TSS stories pages.  Feel free to contact me, especially if you or a loved one has had TSS.  

Also, if you would like more information about safer alternatives to tampons and tips on using them, please follow me on Twitter or contact me through our nonprofit’s website.    

Bio: Suzan Hutchinson is a survivor of TSS and Director of Connectivity for You ARE Loved.  She wants every woman to be empowered to make informed decisions regarding safe and healthy menstruation.


If you aren’t familiar with my own  experiences with my Mooncup they you need to go read here.

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