Down There Care

Should I Be Scared of TSS?

By Vyshnavi Pottepalli Gabi Powell Jillian LoPiano, MD

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TSS is Betty’s version of the boogeyman. Do not leave your tampon in for too long or else…you’ll get toxic shock. But what *actually* is TSS and how scared should I be of it?


Toxic Shock Syndrome, commonly known as TSS, is a rare, but life-threatening condition caused by toxins released into the body by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus.


not-so-fun fact:

TSS spiked during the 1970s because of a specific tampon brand that acted as a sauna for Staph aureus. That brand is now off the market. *phew*


A common misconception is TSS is a menstruator-exclusive condition and tampons are the cause, but TSS can affect all individuals who come in contact with the bacteria.

Okay…but if Staph is responsible for TSS, why do tampons get the blame?

Tampons increase the risk of TSS in two ways:

1. If a tampon, especially a super-absorbent, is left in the vagina for a long time, it creates the perfect conditions for TSS-related bacteria to *thrive*.

2. Tampons can stick to the vaginal wall, causing micro-trauma when inserted and removed, leaving a bacteria-friendly environment behind.

Once the toxin enters the bloodstream, it can rapidly cause a severe illness that affects the entire body (hence, the shock).



In most cases, symptoms will pop up pretty quickly, which is why knowing the signs is vital so you can receive medical attention ASAP:

• Fever

• Flu-like symptoms

• A sunburn-like rash

• Dizziness or fainting



Before you get spooked, Betties, TSS is not as common as you might’ve come to believe. Tampon-use cases of TSS occur 1 in 100,000 Betties. But that doesn’t mean you should minimize the risk and gloss over the real danger here.



🧪 Use the lowest-absorbency tampons that can handle your flow.

🧼 Wash your hands before inserting a tampon.

Change your tampon every 4-8 hours max (depending on your flow!). Set a phone alarm to remind you when it’s time to swap it out for a fresh one!

🩸 Change tampons when needed, but not too often. Micro-traumas are more likely to occur when inserting and removing a dry tampon.


Betties, don’t let the fear of TSS discourage your use of tampons if it is the period product for you. Recognize the signs and the circumstances that put you at risk! No TSS boogeyman scares here.


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