For Your FYI: Toxic Shock Syndrome

Can you get toxic shock syndrome from a tampon?

Tampons are great, but can be dangerous, too.

Last year, a 20-year-old girl, Amy Rae Elifritz, felt like she had the flu. Just a few days later, she died from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)–a rare but sometimes fatal infection usually caused by tampon use.

I know all too well about this freaky illness. When I was in elementary school, my mother suddenly got super sick. She was totally fine during the day, then at night, she came down with a super high fever and her skin was almost green. She was rushed to the hospital, and was there for weeks while experts tried to cure her of TSS. At one point, doctors told my dad that she would probably die. I’m thankful every single day that she made it through (hi, mom!), but her health has never been the same.

Even after all that, I still use tampons sometimes (they’re great for swimming and yoga!), but I also know how to use them right and lower my risk of TSS. Here are the facts:


  • Leaving a tampon in for too long can lead to a build up of bacteria and cause TSS. Make sure you change your tampon every 4-6 hours to be safe.



  • Super-absorbent tampons are by far the most dangerous in terms of TSS, and doctors warn against using a higher level of absorbency than you need. Try a regular tampon first, and then only go up a level if you bleed through.



  • TSS symptoms are a lot like the flu (high fever, low blood pressure, vomiting or diarrhea, achiness, and possibly a rash). So if you’ve been using tampons in the days before getting these symptoms, call your doctor. Sure, it could just be the flu, but you want to rule out TSS before it’s too late.


Obviously, I’m not saying you shouldn’t use tampons–only a couple people out of 100,000 will get it each year–but if you’re going to use them, use them safely. You’re too important to die over a tiny tube of cotton!

Do you use tampons? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Then, check out our Complete Guide to Your Period Options!

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  • bailey

    I use tampons a lot… Stuff like this scares me. I try to be careful.

  • Lisa Elifritz

    Hi Melanie,
    Thank you so much for including TSS on your blog. I would love to add to your information if you don’t mind.

    My daughter used only Regular absorbency tampons and changed as often as 4-6 hours as suggested. She was a hygiene freak and TSS still killed her!

    Please everyone be aware that the only safe tampon is 100% cotton! You can’t buy these at Walmart, Target or CVS, only at health food stores or online. Please pay attention girls!

    THANKS so much!
    Amy’s mommy…

  • Nikki

    I use tampons, but it took me a couple years of having my period to even figure out how to put them in! I have the same problem, Victoria. That’s why I so desperately wanted to learn to use tampons. Now, they’re all I use, until the end of my period when I’m not bleeding enough to need them. When I did use pads, they were the highest absorbency possible, with wings on them so they stayed in place no matter what. But I still got blood everywhere! It was frustrating lol.

  • victoria

    I use tampons because pads don’t give me the protection I need. Blood all over my underwear… 😛 (I know TMI) Anyway, I will definitely be more careful.

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