Reusable Period Products & Toxic Shock Syndrome
10 November 2022
Toxic shock syndrome - TSS - is a rare, life threatening infection that takes hold quickly, leading to low blood pressure and potentially multiple organ failure. It therefore needs urgent treatment.
Toxins are released when staph (staphylococcus aureus) a bacteria normally found in skin wounds or skin infections, enters the body and multiplies. Though anyone is at risk of TSS, it is predominant in menstruating women who use tampons - especially super absorbent tampons.
The bacteria can be present in the vagina already and the polyester foam that most fast absorbing blood soaked tampons are made of acts as the ideal environment for rapid growth.
You are more likely to suffer TSS after giving birth so midwives and Drs recommend avoiding tampons postnatally. Aside from the fact that sticking ANYTHING up your vagina a week after giving birth sounds like a very bad idea.
The mechanism of inserting a tampon can cause micro tears in the vaginal wall increasing your chances of a staph bacteria infection, alongside tampons drying the vagina out as they are so absorbent.
If you are a tampon user and feel the sudden onset of symptoms of toxic shock syndrome such as -
- Flu like symptoms
- Sickness and diarrhoea
- Rash - like sunburn
- Breathing difficulty
Remove your tampon immediately and head to A&E or call 999
Can You Get TSS From Period Underwear?
No, you can’t get toxic shock syndrome from period underwear because all reusable pants and washable pads period protection is external. Unlike tampons nothing enters the vaginal canal making for a breeding ground for staph.
Period underwear comes in a range of styles and budgets, from high-leg to thong! It's also eco friendly, moisture wicking, comfortable and leak proof and can last up to 12 hours depending on your menstrual blood flow.
Reusable pads are another alternative to tampons. They're simply fabric pads which popper around your knickers and are then washed and reused.
Both options are definitely worth investigating if you're worried about TSS.
Can You Get Toxic Shock Syndrome From a Menstrual Cup?
Yes, as it is an internal device, a menstrual cup can cause toxic shock syndrome. Silicone cups, compared to regular tampons, have a low risk and the menstrual cup would need to be inserted for an extended length of time - over 30hrs. Therefore TSS from a menstrual cup is unlikely as long as you remember to remove the cup at the end of your period.
How to Prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome
The best practice to prevent symptoms of TSS would be to:
- Change internal protection every 4-8hrs
- Use organic cotton tampons rather than polyester
- Use the lowest absorbency possible
- Use period pants or sanitary pads in place of tampons
- Empty and wash menstrual cups often
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As always, if you're unsure of what you need to make the switch to reusable sanitary products and period pads, please do drop the team a line or use the online chat function. The team all use the products themselves and just LOVE to chat pee poo and periods, all day long, nothing is TMI and we all love to overshare based on our own experiences...
About the Author: Kirstin Scriven is part of the Customer Experience team at Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. She is mum to 3 and loves the forest, the sea and the hills!
Along with the rest of our crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to overshare. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.