This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rupsa Nag. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Toxic Shock Syndrome

More from Rupsa Nag

This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is one of the first scary associations people make with tampons. But there is no reason to panic. It is not only caused due to tampons neither does it solely affect menstruators but is a condition that might affect anyone. A large number of such cases are non-menstrual, which are due to skin injuries, surgical incisions, nasal packings, burns.

Yes, it is fatal. It is also extremely rare and occurs due to bacterial infection due to the overgrowth of bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes that enter the bloodstream and produce toxins. So, it will only develop if you already have the bacteria.

The staph and strep bacteria often harmlessly live on the skin or mucous membranes. It is only under specific conditions that make them interact with something leading to their rapid growth and toxin production. Children and young adults are more susceptible to it.

It was first identified in 1978 and peaked in the early 1980s when TSS cases caused by superabsorbent tampons were reported in the United States. The brand Rely was taken off the market. Doctors suggest changing tampons every 8 hours, cleaning menstrual cups, and washing your hands properly to avoid TSS. Since then, such an outbreak of TSS hasn’t been seen.

These are part of a regular hygienic routine one should practice to prevent any infection, not just TSS. Super absorbent tampons can trap the staph in the vagina, and it can enter the uterus through the cervix and may grow on tampons if they are not changed at proper intervals.

They can also grow on super-absorbent tampons during light flow. The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream through small vaginal cuts caused by tampons. During menstruation, the pH balance of vagina changes, making it more hospitable for the bacteria.

Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome

  • Sudden high fever, headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rashes (resembling a bad sunburn or red dots)
  • Muscle pain
  • Fainting/dizziness/seizures
  • Redness of eye, mouth, and throat
  • Skin peeling off soles or palms

While it is rare, it is crucial to keep in mind when it comes to tampon testing so that they are well-tested and avoid harmful synthetic absorbents. The exact relation of TSS to menstruation and tampons is not precisely known. Still, one of the reasons could be that tampons alter the natural body environment by introducing oxygen in the vagina. It aids the excess growth of bacteria leading to TSS. This is why healthcare professionals recommend light-absorbency tampons, and it is advised to replace a tampon every 4-8 hours. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups are not known to cause TSS.

There’s No Need To Be Afraid!

Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare and as we now know, not just caused by tampons. A cursory google search for TSS cases in India turns up a few results, nothing of note. Make informed, healthy, and comfortable choices regarding menstrual health products and use them properly.

Tampons and other menstrual products won’t cause TSS just because of insertion, but because of untimely, improper removal or unhygienic usage of the same. That applies to all practices related to our bodies. Following general hygiene practises is a must for any device being inserted into your body, be it menstrual products, contraceptive devices like IUD or diaphragms because preventions of infections are best done by maintaining hygiene:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before device or finger insertion.
  • Be sure to change tampons every 4-8 hours. Use low-absorbent, light tampons.
  • Do not use tampons on days when you experience light flow.
  • Change cups and contraceptive devices at the correct time interval.
  • Consult your doctor for recommending menstrual products and contraceptives that are best suited for your body.
  • Keep wounds and surgical cuts clean, change dressings properly.

Currently, we are in an unprecedented situation where bodily hygiene has become paramount. If certain precautions become daily habits, it will only add to the longevity of our lifestyle.

The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program

You must be to comment.

More from Rupsa Nag

Similar Posts

By Meharmeet Kaur Thandi

By Ansh Sharma

By Rigya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below