Toxic Shock Syndrome Doesn’t Just Arise from Tampon Use

General Health

When people hear toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections – it is most often associated with tampon use. However, doctors report that only about 50% of cases actually arise from the use of tampons. The other 50% can come from various other sources. [1]

Toxic shock syndrome is relatively rare, originating from Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. It occurs when bacteria invades the body and finds its way into the blood stream, releasing toxins that can damage the host’s tissue, organs, and skin. Classified as a medical emergency, this infection is potentially life- and limb-threatening.

While most women who develop TSS have been using super absorbent tampons, the condition can also affect men and manifest in a variety of ways. It can occur as a result from something as simple as an insect bite or a burn or other wound. It is found most often within young people.

A family in the United Kingdom is working to improve awareness of the disease after their 3-year-old son lost 7 fingers and both legs to TSS after having accidentally burned himself. Reuben Harvey-Smith was incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from tonsillitis, but two days after his diagnosis, the toddler was left in such a horrible state that his parents weren’t sure if he would survive.

In order to save his life, the young child sacrificed his mobility.

His mother, Louise, is hoping to spread awareness that toxic shock syndrome can happen to anyone, often as a result of a burn or wound. She hopes no one will have to suffer the way her son has.

The family has sued the hospital where their son was treated and have already been given £50,000 in compensation while they await court proceedings for a final sum. The hospital did decide to take full responsibility for the misdiagnosis. [2]

Doctors warn that TSS can occur after surgery as well, and women who have had staph in the past should refrain from using tampons in order to avoid this life-threatening condition.

The NHS, or National Health Service in the UK, states the following as symptoms of TSS:

  • “You have a temperature of 38.9C (102F) or above
  • You have low blood pressure, fainting and dizziness
  • You have a widespread, flat, red skin rash
  • Three or more of your organs have been affected by infection
  • An infection caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus is apparent or likely”

It is emphasized that this is a medical emergency, and if you suspect you or your child is suffering from TSS, you must seek immediate medical attention.

Here is a bit more about TSS.


[1] Yahoo Beauty

[2] ITV