We’ve all heard the nightmares about toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Maybe it’s even caused you to start walking right by the tampons and opting for pads instead. All you have to do is avoid tampons and you’re golden, right? Over many moons, your vigilance falters, and convenience wins out. But then maybe you do leave a tampon in a little too long. You make like Mad Alice and hop on WebMD only to fall down the bottomless hole of self-diagnosis, wondering: How soon do toxic shock syndrome symptoms appear?
Before you decide you’re going to die, you need to get your myths and facts about TSS straight. Doctors know more about TSS now than ever — including that TSS is rare.
How Symptoms Appear in the Body
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare complication due to a staph or similar bacterial infection, and interestingly, it also affects men, postmenopausal women and children — half of TSS cases happen to menstruating women who prefer super-absorbent tampons. A tampon left in the vagina for over eight hours risks infection due to the creation of a prime environment for Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes or Clostridium sordellii bacteria spreading — producing a toxin that releases into the bloodstream.
When this process occurs, the onset of TSS feels like getting sick with the flu — but suddenly. You can experience high temperatures over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. When standing, you may feel woozy or like passing out due to low blood pressure.
A sunburn-like rash may spread across the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands or even to your face and other parts of the body, depending on the bacteria.
You may experience shock and confusion. Your skin could even start shedding a bit. So even though TSS is rare, when asking yourself — how soon do toxic shock syndrome symptoms appear? — remember that they arise out of the blue and progress rapidly.
How Do Medical Professionals Treat TSS?
TSS is far from common, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take possible symptoms seriously if you experience their onset.
That aside, the most common side effect of leaving a tampon in too long is simply realizing it and visiting your OBGYN to take the tampon out with a clamp. You don’t have to skip tampons to avoid TSS — that’s only true if you’ve had TSS before. The symptoms of TSS aren’t exactly vagina-centric, anyway.
TSS may result in a trip to the hospital for care, and you should never attempt a home remedy. Get yourself to the ER. Medical professionals will remove the tampon and give you antibiotics to prevent infection and further onset of TSS symptoms. If dehydrated, you’ll be given IV fluids to help keep your body healthy enough to fight and recover. If you have low blood pressure, you’ll receive heart medication.
So, How Soon Do Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms Appear?
TSS symptoms appear and progress quickly, and the condition may threaten your life. Complications from TSS include a potential loss of limbs, from digits to arms or legs. Model Lauren Wasser woke up to a scheduled amputation due to TSS. How soon do toxic shock syndromes appear? Apparently, in the blink of an eye. That’s the horror story, parts one and two, to end all TSS horror stories. See a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms.
Tips for Preventing TSS
Follow instructions for your preferred period management product. Change out tampons typically every four to eight hours, and pay attention to directions for the use of a pad, sponge, diaphragm or similar item. Change out menstrual cups with similar frequency; this will also limit the chances of your menstrual cup causing cramps. Minimal use of these items will, of course, prevent your exposure to potential issues.
If you get diagnosed with TSS, avoid using tampons in the future due to the likelihood of reinfection. If you never had TSS, you can still use tampons, but don’t leave them in too long. If you do, don’t freak out — watch for symptoms, and just make sure to act quickly if you experience any! If you have any doubts, a visit to the doctor is always a safe bet.