A 20-year-old woman was rushed to hospital and almost died after using a super-absorbent tampon and developing Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Katie Knight, from Inverness, Scotland, had left the tampon in for 48 hours before it was removed by doctors when she became violently ill.
“I genuinely thought I was going to die,” Katie told Metro.
The young woman was unable to walk and talk and reportedly just hours from dying by the time she was rushed to intensive care, yet the whole time she was sick she had no idea the tampon was the cause.
TSS is caused by infection with certain types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) infection.
Katie told news service Caters that on the fourth day of her period she put in a super tampon – which was too absorbent for the flow she was experiencing – so that she could study for an assignment with fewer interruptions.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss their period problems.
“I was in the library trying to finish an assignment so I was pretty stressed when I started feeling unwell.”
She said she went to a local cafe for a coffee but did not feel any better, calling a taxi to take her home because she “couldn’t walk”.
Over the next 24 hours her condition worsened.
“When I was being sick, the last thing I was thinking about was my period – and because I had no idea I had TSS, I left my tampon in,” she said.
The next day her housemate noticed how ill she had become and, when she had began speaking gibberish, called a health hotline who directed her to go to the emergency ward at their nearest hospital.
“It just got so out of hand and my period was the last thing on my mind.”
Doctors located the tampon after it had been left in for 48 hours, wrecking havoc on her body.
Katie spent four days in intensive care, being told at one point that she might not survive, and now says she only uses pads.
It’s a shocking case, but Dr Daria Fielder of Sapphire Family Medical Practice points out that although the synthetic fibres and absorbency potential of tampons can make an ideal environment for the bacteria to breed, a tampon alone is not enough to cause TSS – you must already have the staph bacteria in your body.
“It’s important to remember that tampons are not the only way to get TSS — men and even children can get it. Tampons are just one way you can get it,” Dr Fielder told Mamamia.
"Toxic shock syndrome is, generally, incredibly rare. Less than one per cent of tampon users would be at risk.
Dr Fielder explained that it's the length of time that the blood-soaked tampon allows bacteria to grow that causes TSS, which is why changing your tampon every three to four hours is recommended.
She said that's why super absorbent tampons were more dangerous, as women mistakenly believed they could keep the tampon in for longer.
"It usually happens only if tampons are used incorrectly, and while it's a very small risk, it's something women should at least be aware of."
The good news is that once you know what to look out for and what to do next - go straight to your doctor - TSS can be hard to miss.
The general practitioner said that nausea, abdominal pains, a temperature and feeling faint are all signs you might be suffering from the syndrome.
"They're definitely not subtle symptoms — you'll feel very sick and they should all be signs that would make you go to the doctor anyway."