International Tampon Alert Day takes place in June each year but it's a subject that, as women, we should be aware of all year round. 

At first glance this may seem a strange subject to devote an awareness day to but it's so important that women know of the possible dangers of tampon use.

It's particularly important for younger, teenage girls who perhaps have not yet heard about Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Sadly, it was the sudden death of Alice Kilvert on 26th November 1991 in Manchester, from tampon-related TSS that prompted her family and friends to take this action.  Alice was only 15 years old when she died.

So what is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

NHS Direct tells us:

"Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) occurs when a bacteria (called staphylococcus aureus) releases poisonous toxins into the body's bloodstream. This will cause symptoms of shock. The toxins also damage organs and body tissue, which can cause death if left untreated.

TSS is usually linked to tampon use or childbirth, although men and children can also develop the condition if the bacteria gets into the bloodstream.

It is not fully understood how tampons cause TSS, although some research suggests it could be linked to the amount of time a higher absorbency tampon is left in the vagina. It is thought that bacteria develops on the tampon and is then absorbed into the bloodstream.

It is important to remember that TSS is very rare and you shouldn't stop using tampons, but you should follow the recommendations for changing them."

According to NHS Direct there are certain measures you can take to reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome:

  • wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon
  • if possible use low absorbency tampons
  • change tampons as often as advised on the pack
  • try to alternate between tampons and sanitary towels during each period
  • make sure you remove used tampons before inserting a new one - never insert more than one
  • insert a fresh tampon before going to bed and replace on waking up
  • remember to always remove the last tampon at the end of your period

 

Early treatment of TSS is vital and so it's important to recognise symptoms when they occur:

  • a high temperature - 40C/104F or above
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • aching muscles
  • tiredness
  • a red rash that peels on the hands and feet

If you develop any or all of these symptoms you should seek urgent medical help.  However, as mentioned earlier, TSS is very rare and by following the correct measures and advice there's no reason why you shouldn't continue to use tampons safely.

For more information and advice about Toxic Shock Syndrome caused by tampons, visit the Alice Kilvert Tampon Alert website. The Alice Kilvert Tampon Alert was set up in March 1993 and it aims to raise awareness of the possibility for women to develop Toxic Shock Syndrome during tampon use.

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