Unfortunately, this uptick in articles, warnings, and “studies” has created a lot of misinformation about TSS. According to a recent study, 81% of women use tampons exclusively, or in combination with another product.
We want to make sure you have the right information about tampons. No matter what kind of period flow you have, you need to know the best – and safest – way to handle it.
That’s why this post is dedicated to busting 8 of the most common and most ridiculous myths about TSS!
1. You Get TSS from Materials Used in Tampons
Reality check time: it’s actually a result of two types of Staphylococcus Bacteria – and those bacteria are likely already inside your body.
Don’t freak out – they’re not going to hurt you! They’re a part of life. These bacteria only become harmful when they can multiply rapidly, which means they’re more likely to make toxins quickly.
While it is important to change your tampon at least once every 8 hours to prevent this bacteria from growing, it’s the environment of your body, not the tampon itself, that’s ripe for bacteria growth.
2. Tampons Are the Only Way to Get TSS
This another myth. In fact, you can even get TSS from burns, cuts, surgical procedures that involve incisions anywhere in the body, and other infections on your skin.
Again, this is because the bacteria we mentioned above is what causes TSS – not tampons themselves.
You should also know that any menstrual product (or anything else!) you put inside your vagina can cause these bacteria to grow if unclean or left in for too long.
The demonization as tampons as “the only way” to get TSS needs to come to an end.
3. You’ll Know If You Have It Because the Symptoms Will Show Up “Downstairs”
This is a myth that’s irresponsible to spread, because this kind of misinformation can really put women at risk. In fact, if you’re experiencing any sort of vaginal discomfort, it’s always a good idea to visit your gynaecologist.
It could be an STD or STI.
In reality, TSS is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms. If you’re feeling achy, confused, dizzy, or if you are throwing up or having diarrhea, those are more common symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
4. TSS Happens Because Tampons Can Get Lost
We’ve often heard people claiming that tampons can get lost, and that you won’t be able to get them out, leading to TSS.
Our question for them: Where exactly do they think these tampons are going? The good news is that your vagina is only about four inches long, and that it stops once it hits your cervix.
So sure, a tampon can move around, but it’s impossible for it to suddenly disappear. If you fear you’ve lost a tampon, try to relax and breathe. This will move the tampon forward, so you can remove it.
5. TSS is an STD
While obviously, you’ll need to remove your tampon before engaging in any sexual activity, the idea that Toxic Shock Syndrome is an STD is laughably untrue.
It’s a bacterial infection, like many other STDs, but it’s not related to intercourse in any way. Whether you choose to have sex on your period is totally up to you, but using a tampon doesn’t cause an STD.
6. You Will Get TSS If You Forget to Change Your Tampon
Even if you accidentally do leave a tampon in for too long (hey, it happens) the likelihood that you’ll experience the worst possible outcome is super low. You can relax.
In fact, you may have even had friends that accidentally left their tampons in for a few days. While it’s never a good idea to leave your tampon in for longer than instructed, you’re not going to die because you did.
Instead, you’ll probably just have to go to the gyno and get it removed safely.
7. TSS Affects Exclusively Women
Since you now know that Toxic Shock Syndrome isn’t caused just by tampons, it should also come as no surprise that the claims that it affects only women are, in the immortal words of Cher from Clueless, “totally bogus.”
Men, and sadly even children, are just as likely to get TSS as women. That’s why if you notice a severely infected cut on your partner or child’s skin, you don’t want to delay taking them to a doctor to have it looked at.
Better safe than sorry.
8. TSS Happens All the Time
Given the extreme warnings on menstrual product boxes, you’d think that there’s a new TSS diagnosis every two seconds. Fortunately, this simply isn’t true.
No matter what kind of horror stories you may have read on the Internet (we’re looking at you, xoJane) Toxic Shock Syndrome just isn’t that common. In fact, even in the UK, there are only about 40 cases of TSS every year, and fatalities (if there are any) are in the single digits.
Also, those fatalities or amputations you’ve read about? Incredibly rare as well. Plus, they happened because, sadly, women did not follow the instructions for proper self-care.
As long as you’re changing your tampon frequently (though, you don’t need to change it every time you use the bathroom) you’ll be fine!
Stop Believing These 8 Myths!
We hope this list has given you serious peace of mind about using tampons.
To prevent TSS, always make sure you’re staying and sanitary as possible when changing them out, and follow the instructions on the box closely.
Also, you may realize that tampons aren’t the best fit for you at this time. Not to worry – there are plenty of other sustainable, safe, and effective menstrual solutions out there for you.
Safe and Effective Feminine Hygiene Products
In particular, we recommend using a menstrual cup, such as the Diva Cup, or the Lunette Cup. Although there is a steep learning curve, once you get the hang of period cups, you’ll be hooked! They have larger capacities than tampons, and are more environmentally friendly. Of course, since you buy it once and reuse a menstrual cup for years, it’s far cheaper than any of the disposable feminine hygiene products. And of course, they come with a much reduced chance of TSS when compared to normal tampons.
Another product that we recommend on this website are reusable menstrual pads made of organic cotton. They are cheaper, much better for the environment and also safer for your body, since they contain no pesticides or chemicals used in manufacturing.
Don’t dread your period every month – instead, feel empowered to face it. You can do it, safely!