I grew up in the ‘90s, which meant most of my sex ed came courtesy of the teen magazines I'd steal from my older cousin. Apparently, nothing sold copies faster than true stories of almost getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS)—a condition which 11-year-old me understood to mean death by tampon.
Why was everyone so afraid of toxic shock syndrome? As Dr. Anita Sadaty, OB/GYN at Northwell Health explains, a lot of the fear surrounding TSS in the ‘90s was left over from the first cases that had surfaced just a decade earlier.
In 1978, a new type of high-absorbency tampon made of rayon fibers (now discontinued) was introduced, which many believe caused a few more cases of TSS than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was used to seeing (we’re talking six out of every 100,000 menstruating tampon users per year). “There was a time in history where you were completely afraid of using a tampon because of reports in the media," says Dr. Sadaty.
But how exactly does leaving a super absorbent tampon in for too long have the potential to kill you? Here's what you need to know about toxic shock syndrome, including the truth behind the myths you may have grown up believing (like I did), and how often you should actually be changing your tampon.