Why 'International Tampon Alert Day' isn't the laughing matter I thought it was

At the start of each month at work, I receive an email with all of the national awareness days that are taking place that month.

Coming up in June is World Environment Day (5th June), National Cucumber Day (13th June), and World Juggling Day (20th June).

It certainly seems like there's a day for everything nowadays, and some of them do make me titter when I see them on the list.

Next Monday (8th June) is apparently International Tampon Alert Day.

Yes, it really is.

I didn't understand what this could entail, why it was so important to be an international day, and what it could be alerting people to.  I thought, initially, it was just another day for women to protest about tampon tax.

After a bit of research, though, I found out that it is actually quite an important, serious day.

International Tampon Alert Day aims to educate women on the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

(Boys, you probably want to stop reading about now if you haven't already...)

Every girl, when first using a tampon, will sit and read through the booklet included and will panic when she gets to the bit about TSS.  From then, every time you feel dizzy, feel faint, have a few loose poos (boys, if you're still with us - yes, we poo), or resemble any of the other symptoms you will have straight away convinced yourself you've got TSS.

Incase you're not sure what TSS is, it's a bacteria that can live on the skin, in the mouth or in the nose of men and women.  It is completely harmless until it enters your bloodstream.  Over half of reported cases of TSS involve women's use of tampons - which is a scary fact to comprehend.

Symptoms of TSS usually begin with a sudden, high fever and a temperature above 38.9C/102F.  Within a few hours, sufferers will develop flu-like symptoms which can include a headache, muscle aches, a sore throat and a cough.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, feeling faint, dizziness and confusion are also common symptoms.

It is possible for a widespread sunburn-like rash to appear on the skin which, soon after appearing, can cause the skin to shed in large sheets; especially from the hands and soles of the feet.

It's terrifying to think that all of this can be caused by simply using a tampon.

A 27-year-old woman from Doncaster had to be placed in a coma last year to allow her body to fight TSS - all because she used a tampon.  She said that she hadn't done anything different to any other month - which highlights how sporadic and random this, potentially deadly, disease can be.

When she came round from her coma, she did not recognise her family and was unable to walk.

Suddenly International Tampon Alert Day doesn't seem like such a laughing matter!

My point here is not to scare all women off using tampons each month, because who am I to preach about personal things like that?! I simply just want to raise awareness of the disease, the symptoms and to make people aware that it is a real, scary thing.

Yes, it's incredibly rare but, for this reason, it is often missed.  Because its symptoms are so similar to other illnesses, TSS can be misdiagnosed and missed by doctors and health professionals.

The NHS have a whole range of advice on how to prevent getting TSS, involving the treatment of wounds on the body and contraception - which can also be causes.

The link between TSS and tampon use is unclear, but research conducted has suggested that tampon absorbency may play a part.

It is therefore recommended that you use the lowest absorbency suitable for your period flow and alternate tampons with a sanitary towel (or panty liner) during your period.

To read the NHS advice in full, you can visit their website: Preventing toxic shock syndrome

All the information about TSS is on the leaflet in the tampon box (let's be honest girls, we've all already read it) and is regularly updated as more research is uncovered.

To mark International Tampon Alert Day, let's not hang tampons from our handbags or out of our car windows (that's what I imagined would happen before I knew what it was about!) but let's educate other women on spotting the signs and preventing it in the first place.

Happy tampon-ing! xx

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