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Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): It’s the life-threatening illness we’re all programmed to be scared sh*tless of yet rarely think about unless it’s in the news. There was 24-year-old model Lauren Wasser who lost her leg a few years ago to TSS and the 13-year-old British teen who died a few months back from the illness. Freaky (and rare) stories, to be sure, but what’s the average gal gotta know to stay safe? Here are the key points to protect yourself with.
It’s Not Just Caused By Tampons
Toxic shock occurs when toxins (produced by certain strains of Staphylococcus bacteria) invade the body, leading to a sudden high fever, rash, and other life-threatening complications. And while up to half of TSS cases can be attributed to a tampon (the fibers in them take on that bacteria and cause it to grow), it can also be caused by other open wounds, like a scrape or bug bite, says Diana Hoppe, M.D., an ob-gyn based in Encinitas, California.
It’s Really, Really Rare
Think about all the people you know who use tampons or have had a cut on their body. (So everybody.) Last year, there were only 26 cases of TSSreported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In all my years of practice I’ve never seen a case of TSS,” says Hoppe. It’s extremely unlikely you or anyone you know will have TSS—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you can to reduce your teeny-tiny risk.