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toxic-shock

Toxic-shock syndrome

Feb 10th 2017

A student thought her severe headache was caused by exam stress – but a tampon had actually given her a life-threatening infection.

Phoebee Bambury, 19, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, spent almost two weeks in hospital after contracting toxic shock syndrome last month.

She had just finished her exams for her degree in pharmacy, at Keele University, and was in the library preparing for the new term, when she started to feel unwell.

She explained: “I was feeling really awful. I went downstairs at the library and started to vomit so I went home to my student house.

“I thought it was just because it was exam season and I'd been really stressed. I was a bit run down and it was that time of year where everyone gets sick.”

Trying to shake off her illness, she went home to relax before getting ready to celebrate her granddad George Ellis, 78, stepdad, Mark Chadwick, 49, and boyfriend Scott Lawton, 24, joint birthdays with her family at a restaurant in Stoke-on-Trent.

But as the party came to an end, she started burning up and her concerned mum, office manager Jane Chadwick, 49, told her to spend the night at her boyfriend’s house in Packmoor, Staffordshire, in case she got worse.

During the night, she woke up and knew something was seriously wrong.

She said: “I was shivering really uncontrollably. All of my muscles were aching and I just really didn't feel well at all.”

But Phoebee was able to connect the dots and realised her symptoms sounded familiar.

“It was ticking over in my head and I thought I knew what it sounded like,” she said. “I went and got a box of tampons and read out all the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. Everything matched.

“My boyfriend said it was probably just a bug or a virus, but I really didn't want to risk it. My friend's mum died from toxic shock and so did my dad's girlfriend's niece.

"I didn't know them personally, but I had been told stories about it and I knew how bad it can get.”

She immediately phoned 111 to ask for advice and they told her to go straight to hospital.

Knowing that getting medical help quickly if it was TSS was important, she phoned her grandparents George and Mavis Ellis who took her to the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

After speaking to a triage nurse, she was immediately admitted and hooked up to a drip.

“I was still shaking and felt really cold but my temperature was 39.7 C. I was in agony - I had a really bad headache and I had really bad stomach pains. It was frightening because I felt so awful,” she said.

For weeks, Phoebee had been suffering heavy menstrual bleeding but, as concerned doctors investigated the cause of her symptoms, scans ruled out any gynaecological problems.

Diagnosed with TSS – a rare infection which is caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria getting into the body’s deep tissue and releasing toxins that attack internal organs - Phoebee was given a cocktail of antibiotics and painkillers.

Her body continued to react to the infection, causing days of vomiting, fevers and her body to swell so much, she put on 5kg because of the fluid.

After 12 days in hospital, she was released and, despite her ordeal, she was glad that she got to hospital in time.

Although she says she was always careful to use tampons correctly, doctors believe her body reacted to them during her heavy bleeding, causing TSS.

“I have been having really, really heavy bleeding, so I have been using them a lot for quite a well. I never leave them in for more than eight hours and I use ones that are right for my flow, but I was really unlucky.

“I have had my boyfriend driving around town looking for the right size before - I know all the things to do but it happened any way.

“It could have been so much worse though. People lose limbs or even die. At least I connected the dots and recognised the symptoms, because a lot of people just think it's a really bad cold,” she explained.

Phoebee hopes to make a full recovery, but the infection has caused the skin all over her body to dry out and flake off.

Now recovering at home, she is speaking out to warn other women about the dangers of TSS.

She added: “The best advice would be not to use tampons at all, but I know for a lot of people that isn't an option. It's important to make yourself aware of the symptoms and if you do get them, get straight to a hospital.

“It is better to be safe than sorry. Even if it is a virus, it's better for them to check it out than for you to end up with multiple organ failure.”

Symptoms of TSS include a high temperature of 39C (102.2F) or above; flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, chills, muscle aches, a sore throat and a cough; feeling and being sick; diarrhoea; a widespread sunburn-like rash; the whites of the eyes, lips and tongue turning a bright red; dizziness or fainting; breathing difficulties; confusion and drowsiness.

The NHS said: “TSS is a medical emergency.

“While these symptoms could be due an illness other than TSS, it's important to contact your GP, local out of hours servicece-auto-ge or NHS 111 as soon as possible if you have a combination of these symptoms.

“It's very unlikely that you have TSS, but these symptoms shouldn't be ignored.”

She immediately phoned 111 to ask for advice and they told her to go straight to hospital.

Knowing that getting medical help quickly if it was TSS was important, she phoned her grandparents George and Mavis Ellis who took her to the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

After speaking to a triage nurse, she was immediately admitted and hooked up to a drip.

“I was still shaking and felt really cold but my temperature was 39.7 C. I was in agony - I had a really bad headache and I had really bad stomach pains. It was frightening because I felt so awful,” she said.

For weeks, Phoebee had been suffering heavy menstrual bleeding but, as concerned doctors investigated the cause of her symptoms, scans ruled out any gynaecological problems.

Diagnosed with TSS – a rare infection which is caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria getting into the body’s deep tissue and releasing toxins that attack internal organs - Phoebee was given a cocktail of antibiotics and painkillers.

Her body continued to react to the infection, causing days of vomiting, fevers and her body to swell so much, she put on 5kg because of the fluid.

After 12 days in hospital, she was released and, despite her ordeal, she was glad that she got to hospital in time.

Although she says she was always careful to use tampons correctly, doctors believe her body reacted to them during her heavy bleeding, causing TSS.

“I have been having really, really heavy bleeding, so I have been using them a lot for quite a well. I never leave them in for more than eight hours and I use ones that are right for my flow, but I was really unlucky.

“I have had my boyfriend driving around town looking for the right size before - I know all the things to do but it happened any way.

“It could have been so much worse though. People lose limbs or even die. At least I connected the dots and recognised the symptoms, because a lot of people just think it's a really bad cold,” she explained.

Phoebee hopes to make a full recovery, but the infection has caused the skin all over her body to dry out and flake off.

Now recovering at home, she is speaking out to warn other women about the dangers of TSS.

She added: “The best advice would be not to use tampons at all, but I know for a lot of people that isn't an option. It's important to make yourself aware of the symptoms and if you do get them, get straight to a hospital.

“It is better to be safe than sorry. Even if it is a virus, it's better for them to check it out than for you to end up with multiple organ failure.”

Symptoms of TSS include a high temperature of 39C (102.2F) or above; flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, chills, muscle aches, a sore throat and a cough; feeling and being sick; diarrhoea; a widespread sunburn-like rash; the whites of the eyes, lips and tongue turning a bright red; dizziness or fainting; breathing difficulties; confusion and drowsiness.

The NHS said: “TSS is a medical emergency.

“While these symptoms could be due an illness other than TSS, it's important to contact your GP, local out of hours servicece-auto-ge or NHS 111 as soon as possible if you have a combination of these symptoms.

“It's very unlikely that you have TSS, but these symptoms shouldn't be ignored.”

Toxic-shock syndrome

This is a very serious condition with a fatality rate approximately 50% so it’s not something to be taken lightly, usually associated with the misuse of tampons but there are other reasons why you might encounter this unusual condition.

You will be more at risk if you are a diabetic, if you have recently undergone surgery, you are suffering from chickenpox also alcoholics are known to be more at risk.

The symptoms for toxic-shock syndrome are very similar to the symptoms for influenza but if they occur soon after surgery or skin injury or if you suspect you have been misusing your tampons you should contact your doctor without delay.

The doctor should take a blood sample to check your kidney and liver function they will also take swabs from your throat, cervix and vagina, These samples are analyzed for the bacteria that cause toxic shock syndrome.

You will probably finish up in the hospital’s intensive care unit on an antibiotic drip and subject to 24 hour monitoring after being thoroughly examined, poked and prodded to make sure that you haven’t still got some foreign body still inside you.

You will more than likely be put on medicines to stabilize blood pressure, and you will get some gamma globulin injections and a fluid drip to fight dehydration

If you’re a major organs are affected you may suffer from liver or kidney failure, heart failure or the serious condition of general shock

You can do your best to avoid toxic shock by changing your tampon every 4 to 8 hours, changing to a sanitary napkin on light flow days, using a low absorbency tampons sanitary napkin and washing your hands frequently with a hand cleaner not just soap.

If you have any breaks in your skin grazing or cuts you must keep them clean and change your dressings often.

Do not be reluctant to pass this information on to the younger members of your family, it still amazes me to find out that some mothers do not show their little girl infants the way to wipe their bottoms, i.e. always wipe from front to back, make sure that the younger female members of your family are aware of the 4 to 8 hour maximum time period before changing their tampons if it is applicable.

Do not rely on them picking this vital information up from their friends or schoolmates, remember the Chinese whisper and make sure they get the correct information.

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