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Are hygienic tampons dangerous?

Are hygienic tampons dangerous?


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Susceptible to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TCS), intravaginal protection should be used with caution. The explanations of Dr. Gérard Lina, doctor at the National Staphylococci Reference Center.

Toxic shock syndrome: an infectious disease

  • Some women harbor in their vagina an "aggressive version" of Staphylococcus aureus, capable of producing a very dangerous toxin. When wearing a tampon or menstrual cup, the blood of their menses does not run out and stagnates inside the vagina.
  • In this warm and propitious culture medium, staphylococcus aureus can then proliferate and from a certain concentration begin to secrete this famous toxin (TSST-1). If it crosses the vaginal wall and joins the bloodstream, it causes a strong inflammatory reaction in the blood: it is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

Heavy consequences

  • This infectious disease has caused a stir in the media in recent years: a young American model has been amputated both legs following a Toxic Shock Syndrome. In France, 3% of women are carriers of the staphylococcus aureus that produces TSST-1, and each year around 20 women are hospitalized in intensive care for this disease. They have more or less serious sequelae (occasional drop of nails and hair, not completely reversible lesions of some organs, necrosis of extremities of the limbs).

Alarming signs

  • The faster the Toxic Shock Syndrome is diagnosed and treated, the less the consequences are important. When a woman wears a tampon or a cup, she must be particularly attentive to certain signals. But beware, such a syndrome is not announced by gynecological pain, but by apparently unrelated manifestations: an impression of weakness and discomfort, symptoms of gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea) or flu (fever , headache). And a few minutes before the shock, a rash all over the body resembling a sunburn.
  • At the slightest doubt, it is necessary to remove as soon as possible its tampon or its menstrual cup: at the beginning of the process, this will be enough to stop it because the blood of the rules, while flowing, will evacuate the staph and its toxins. The symptoms will regress quickly. If the process is more advanced, there is loss of consciousness and / or rash, go to the emergency room immediately.

Effective treatment

  • In case of Toxic Shock Syndrome, the patient receives infusions. An antibiotic treatment is administered to fight against the infection and to stop the production of the toxin TSST-1. After a first shock, recurrences are common. It is therefore prudent to give up the buffers or to use them only exceptionally for a very short duration (less than two hours).

Prevention measures

  • To avoid knowing a Toxic Shock Syndrome, it is not necessary to give up the wearing of tampons and menstrual cups! But only to adopt the good gestures of prevention.
  • It is important first of all to ensure short use and to change its intravaginal seals every 4 hours. Beyond 6 hours, the risk of a shock is increased significantly. This type of protection is not recommended for the night, during which it is better to opt for towels. Also essential, wash your hands before and after inserting a device into the vagina so as not to contaminate it with staphylococci.
  • For the menstrual cup, passing under the water is not enough to take off the staphylococcus it can shelter: sterilization with boiling water is essential. Hence the need to have several, sterilized in advance and stored in an airtight box.

Toxic substances in the buffers?

In February 2016, the association 60 Millions of consumers published the results of tests conducted by independent laboratories on 11 hygienic protections (tampons, towels, panty liners): out of 5, were found residues of potentially toxic substances such as dioxins, glyphosates and pesticides. In May 2017, a survey issued by the Directorate General of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) confirmed these results, while considering that there was "no serious and immediate danger, given the low levels ". For its part, the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labor (ANSES) stated in January 2017 that "to date, no study has identified any specific risk related to these traces ". Some experts suspect the effects of these chemicals on the appearance of endometriosis, a uterine pathology that causes infertility. But nothing is proven.

Isabelle Gravillon for Notrefamille.com