Student Thoughts: Using tampons might be life-threatening

Ana Barrios / Contributing Writer

As women, most of us remember that special moment in our lives when we first got our period – for many this is one of the first steps in transitioning towards womanhood. As the years pass, the menstrual cycle can be an often painful experience due to cramps and appearing slightly bloated as a young girl matures into a young woman. Nevertheless, all girls and women continue to use these classic feminine hygiene products such as pads or tampons for handling their periods.

Using either pads or tampons is the most popular choice for women to use once they enter their monthly menstrual period as they are easy to use. Unfortunately, the information I have read within two articles I found on the internet is something that needs to be shared with all girls and women if they are using tampons.

Toxic shock syndrome is a fatal illness caused by a bacterial toxin, such as Staphylococcus aureus or group A Streptococcus. The source of the illness is apparently from the use of tampons—though there is not much awareness of it.

According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, a tampon introduced by Proctor and Gamble known as Rely tampons were recalled on Sept. 22, 1980, because in January 1980, epidemiologists in Wisconsin and Minnesota found TSS in those who were menstruating as a result of using Rely tampons. Even though the number of TSS reported cases had significantly decreased since the 1980s, many women can still be affected if they are not careful in using tampons and it is a fact that some women may not be aware of it before it’s too late.

On Oct. 3, 2012, a model named Lauren Wasser was not feeling well while at a friend’s birthday party; she figured her period was making her feel a bit wary, so she left the party early to get some rest. The next day, her mother was worried since Lauren told her she would call in the morning but never did. She asked a friend to check on Lauren along with a police officer; they found her passed out on the bedroom floor with a fever of 107 degrees. At a hospital, Lauren was diagnosed with TSS after a tampon she was using came back positive with the bacteria. As a result, her right leg was amputated from the knee down due to the infection developing into gangrene. It is a blessing that Lauren is alive today despite not being aware of TSS from the beginning. She still shares her story to let other tampon users know to use the products with caution.

However, there are those who are not aware of the illness and have lost their lives because of not knowing about it sooner.

Jemma-Louise Roberts, a 13-year-old British girl and keen swimmer, felt unwell with sickness and diarrhea while on a family vacation. She used tampons as a convenient way to continue her training as a swimmer – most female athletes tend to use tampons while performing extensive training. Suddenly, her health began to deteriorate and her family rushed her to the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan where she was diagnosed with TSS. Nothing could be done to save Jemma-Louise’s life, sadly, for the disease had taken its course. On March 2014, she died a week later from a brain hemorrhage while on a heart and lung machine. Devastated, her mother is now working hard towards spreading the word about TSS so that other young women will not meet the same fate that happened to her young daughter.

What happened to Lauren and Jemma-Louise could have been prevented if they knew about TSS and if they had received earlier medical attention. Even though the disease is a well-known fatal illness which can cause a woman’s health to be at risk, many are still not aware of TSS and continue using tampons – running the risk of accidentally contracting the bacterial infection if something goes wrong during their menstrual periods.

Every woman needs to know about TSS in order to prevent contracting the disease, especially young girls who are just starting their periods. If a girl who is a tampon user says she’s not feeling well during her period besides having cramps and feeling bloated, take her to a hospital immediately in case she might have TSS so that she may receive the proper medical treatment early. To all the women at FIU: be careful while using a tampon for you may never know if you will get TSS one day. Always remember to read the warnings carefully and go to a doctor in case something goes wrong while using a tampon.

[Photo from Flickr, image resized]

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