13-Year-Old Dies From Using Tampons. Mom Warns It Could Happen to You

A mother is speaking out this week to warn others after her daughter’s devastating death due to toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Diane Roberts’s 13-year-old-daughter, Jemma-Louise, began feeling ill while on a family vacation and was originally diagnosed with a stomach bug, according to the Manchester Evening News. After the British teenager’s health continued to deteriorate, her family brought her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with TSS, caused by bacteria related to tampon use. Jemma-Louise, a competitive swimmer, had reportedly begun using tampons not long before her illness because they allowed her to continue training throughout her menstrual cycle. A week after her diagnosis, in March 2014, Jemma-Louise died of a brain bleed while on a heart and lung machine, according to the paper. Blood tests before she died showed evidence of the staphylococcus bacteria, linked to TSS and sepsis.

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Now Roberts is sharing her daughter’s story to raise awareness about an illness that she says doesn’t get enough attention. “TSS used to be talked about in the ’80s, but you never hear it now,” she told the Manchester Evening News. “My husband had never heard of TSS — if one dad reads this and his daughter falls ill, it could save her life.” Roberts and her family have been raising awareness through fundraisers for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where Jemma-Louise was treated.

Aaron Glatt, MD, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and an infectious-disease specialist at South Nassau Communities Hospital, says that while TSS is something to be aware of, it shouldn’t scare teenagers from using tampons entirely. “Certainly tampons are safe to use,” Glatt tells Yahoo Parenting. “At the same time, there is a potential risk of toxic shock syndrome with the more absorbent, heaver tampons because people think they can leave them in for longer periods of time.”

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Only about one in every 100,000 women who use tampons contract TSS every year, according to a study out of the University of Minnesota, and Glatt says that cases of its being fatal are rare. Still, if you or your daughter is using a tampon and you suddenly get sick, seek help. “If you are not feeling well — if you have a rash, if you have high fevers, if you are confused, go to your doctor as soon as possible,” Glatt says. And don’t forget to mention to your doctor that you are wearing a tampon, he says, because they may not immediately ask and the symptoms of TSS can be similar to those of the flu.

Teenage girls — and anyone using a tampon — should be sure to take them out after six hours, use lower absorbency products, and if you’re not feeling well, “manage the flow in another way,” Glatt says.

(Top photo: JustGiving/Tony Roberts)

Yahoo Parenting has chosen this story, originally published on September 22, as an example of one of our best of 2015.


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