Hi, I’m Suzan, and I’d like to share my Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) story with you.
I was a late bloomer compared to all my friends. Heavy from the start, I found it impossible to
prevent huge leaks – when using a tampon I had to use a pad as backup, and still I leaked.
The only way I found to control my heavy flow was to use several tampons at the same time. This
worked better for me, but I still had to change often and carrying so many tampons was awkward.
My menstrual options were limited.
And then one day I received a sample of a new and improved type of tampon called RELY. It
contained super absorbent material and the information assured me they were reliable and could
be depended on to prevent leaks. AND, depending on my flow, one tampon could last me all day
– or, even my entire period. Imagine that!
I used the tampons. They did exactly what the information said they would do.
But, they also did something not mentioned in the information – they raised my risk of developing
a rare and sometimes deadly infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
While using RELY tampons I noticed my vagina became raw and painful. Within a short time,
I became very ill with flu-like symptoms. I removed the tampon. Honesty, if my vagina had not
become inflamed and painful I would have continued to rely on RELY.
My doctor assured me I had the flu. He and I failed to make the connection between my flu-like
symptoms and the tampons I was using.
After all, tampon related TSS was unheard of at the time.
At my next scheduled doctor’s appointment I casually mentioned trying RELY tampons. When
asked by my doctor what I thought of them, I recounted my experience.
Only then was I diagnosed with tampon related TSS – and told that I could have died had I not
removed the tampon when I did.
I was also told to NEVER use tampons again – ever.
But, my periods were still heavy and the only options I had were leaky pads and tampons.
RELY tampons were pulled from the shelves shortly after my diagnosis and it wasn’t long before
warnings were printed on the boxes of tampons and a TSS brochure placed within. I read the
information and with RELY no longer a threat falsely assumed all was well and TSS was no
longer a risk.
I used tampons – again placing several at the same time, doing whatever was needed in order
to prevent leaks and get me to the next bathroom break. I was aware that I was at a higher than
average risk for TSS because I’d had it before, but felt certain all was well – after all, RELY was
out of the picture and I used tampons responsibly.
Last year I learned that it isn’t enough to use tampons responsibly. I learned that changing a
tampon just like the TSS warning brochure instructs isn’t enough to keep you from developing
TSS. I learned that a young woman named Amy Elifritz died from TSS. And, I read numerous
accounts of other young women and teens who developed TSS while menstruating and using
tampons. These women used tampons that anyone can purchase off the shelf of any store.
They contain viscose rayon, which increases the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Young women today have more options for managing flow than ever before. Reusable cloth
pads as well as disposable pads come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and absorbencies.
100% organic tampons provide the same protection without the same TSS risk. Menstrual
sponges are a natural and reusable option that women have trusted for many years. Period
panties – yes, panties for your period – are a wonderful way to add security to your flow days.
And, then there are menstrual cups – disposable and reusable. These options are far safer than
traditional tampons which contain viscose rayon (a super absorbent fiber). And, I might add,
most are safer for the environment, too.
Now, don’t shut me out. Have you tried a menstrual cup? If you haven’t I suggest you do so.
While I cannot say they are 100% TSS risk free, I can say that the risk for developing TSS is
far lower with menstrual cups than with traditional tampons – menstrual cups collect, they don’t
absorb. Tampons can dry out your vagina, cause micro-tears and leach chemicals into your body.
Menstrual cups do neither – they just sit in your vagina and catch your flow.
I can only imagine how much easier my menstrual experience would have been (and SAFER,
too!) had menstrual cups been available to me years ago. For one thing, I would not have
developed TSS and would not be dealing with the health issues I do on a daily basis, and will for
the remainder of my life. And, for another, I would have saved oodles of money because many
menstrual cups are reusable! (How much do you spend each month on menstrual needs? I have
spent as much as $20 a month on pads and tampons – two months and I could have purchased a
reusable cup!) They save the environment, they save your health and they save you money!
And, while we are talking about saving money – cloth pads are a wonderful option to disposable
pads. They can be worn solo during any and every day of your period, as backup to menstrual
cups, and for spotty days as well. And, you can even purchase them custom made – just for you
and your needs. Now, let me ask you – do the makers of disposable pads offer you that?
If the “ick” factor prevents you from considering cloth menstrual pads, let me assure you that
I felt the same way before I used them. They are not icky. Clean up is a breeze. They are so
soft, so comfortable. They fit well, provide excellent protection, and don’t cause irritation! Yes –
irritation – have you ever experienced itching or burning or a rash when using disposable pads?
Disposable pads have an ick factor all their own – they are loaded with chemicals that cause all
sorts of problems for our girly parts. And, they are hard on the environment, too!
Understanding that some choose to continue using tampons after learning of the risk of TSS and
of the safer menstrual options available, and certain that I don’t want my story to become yours
or that of someone you love, I would be remiss if I failed to provide you with information about the
symptoms of tampon related TSS and what to do if you suspect it.
Inside each box of tampons is a TSS warning/information leaflet. Please take a moment and read
it. Or, view You ARE Loved’s informational brochure and then share this information with your
friends and family.
As a survivor of TSS and as Director of Connectivity for You ARE Loved, I hope you will visit our
website and take a moment to look over the TSS stories pages. Feel free to contact me. And, if
you or a loved one has had TSS, I would love to hear your story.
Also, if you would like more information about safer alternatives to tampons and tips on using
them, please follow me on Twitter or contact me through our nonprofit’s website.
Remember – an eco-friendly period = a safer period, for you and for your environment.
Suzan is a survivor of TSS and Director of Connectivity for You ARE Loved. She wants
every woman to be empowered to make informed decisions regarding safe and healthy
This Post is a part of Eco Crazy Mom’s Earth Friendly Period Event- Be sure to check out all of the other great posts, reviews and giveaways below!
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