Monthly Archives: January 2013

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Dispelling the Myths

As most of you may be aware, the reason we are putting together an anthology for our friend Karen DeLabar is because last summer she almost died from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Her story, in her words, is a harrowing and courageous tale that, when you read it, you think could only be a nightmare. But it happened. And it happened to our dear friend. It almost took her life. Almost.

Orange Karen: Our Miraculous Warrior

Karen DeLabar starting the long road to recovery from her battle with TSS.

Many people, including myself, think of tampons when they hear about Toxic Shock Syndrome. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was an “epidemic” of Toxic Shock Syndrome among menstruating women who used superabsorbent tampons. One brand in particular contained a chemical in the make-up of the tampons that prevented the filtering of the bacteria that caused TSS, thus increasing the risk. Since then, tampon manufacturers have adjusted the composition of their tampons and risk of TSS has reduced greatly.

Superabsorbent tampons in the late 70’s and early 80’s were the cause in an epidemic of TSS in North America.

Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and the information presented in this blog is not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool. If you have further questions about your health as it relates to TSS, please consult a medical professional.

So what is TSS?

Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is rare and life-threatening caused by strains of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or streptococcus (strep) bacteria that produce toxins (poisons). Initial symptoms of TSS can be similar to the flu: high fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, and disorientation. Those with TSS might also experience low blood pressure, shock, dehydration, sore throat, muscle pain, peeling skin, kidney failure, and a rash that looks similar to a sunburn. Toxic Shock Syndrome can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated right away.

staph

This staph bacteria might look cute, but it can turn deadly once it starts to release toxins in the body.

The most important thing we want to share is this: TSS doesn’t just occur in women who wear tampons. TSS can also occur in men and children. If the staph and strep bacteria enter the bloodstream through a cut or infection, then they may be at risk for TSS. Karen did not get TSS from tampons. Karen and her medical team are not sure how she contracted TSS, but are very sure in that she did not get it from tampon use.

What is the cure for TSS?

The first and most important thing is that TSS must be identified early enough so that rigorous treatment can begin. In most cases the goal of treatment is to keep the body functioning and to assist the body in getting rid of the infection. This is not one of those “get your prescription for antibiotics and go home, drink plenty of fluids and you’ll be back to work next week” type of infections. If you have TSS you will be hospitalized, most likely in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Treatments may include IV antibiotics, kidney dialysis, fluid through an IV to stay hydrated, a feeding tube to give the body the nutrients it needs. In Karen’s case, she was put in a medically induced coma in order to help her live. She was hooked up to every machine possible to help her major organs to function as the antibiotics went to work to rid her of the infection.

How can I prevent TSS?

Most resources on TSS prevention include proper tampon hygiene – limiting the use of highly absorbent tampons. Since TSS can also be contracted through cuts and open wounds (including post-surgical), it would be very important to make sure wounds are clean and are cared for properly so to prevent any type of infection.

Now What?

Hopefully this post has dispelled some myths about TSS. Here’s what the medical community now know about TSS:

  • People still get TSS and it’s not always contracted through the use of tampons.
  • Open cuts and wounds can also cultivate staph and strep bacteria that can cause toxins to build up in the body.
  • It can occur in men, women and children.
  • While Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, it is serious and life-threatening.

Resources

MayoClinic

Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service

PubMed Health

Health Canada’s views on TSS

Sunset through the clouds

Karen was extremely lucky to have survived. Those that know her, or know of her, know it wasn’t just luck – it was a miracle. That and her “kick TSS’s ass” mentality. She’s a fighter and we’re all behind her crouched in our best ninja-fighting stance. One of the ways we’re helping Karen fight is through the creation of an anthology of short stories. We have 39 amazing authors lined up with stories guaranteed to entertain. Perhaps I’m biased, but I’d have to say that this is one of the most eclectic short story anthologies I have ever read. There’s suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, humor…you will laugh, cry, swoon, and cheer! I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but you’re going to have to wait until April 2013!

Stay tuned as we will be featuring the Orange Karen Anthology authors on this blog so you’ll get to know them and will get a taste of their work!

– Christina

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