Conditions

Tampon Kills Teenage Girl, Natasha Scott Falber, Who Suffered Toxic Shock Syndrome, Says Family

Tampon with applicator
A 14-year-old girl died from toxic shock syndrome caused by using her first tampon. Shattonbury, CC BY-SA 1.0

A teenage girl’s first time using tampons would soon come to be known as her last. Natasha Scott-Falber, 14, of Wales, U.K., died from an ultra-rare tampon infection five days after being diagnosed with what was thought to be the norovirus.

The talented, aspiring West End reportedly followed all of the instructions and used the tampon correctly before her death on Valentine’s Day earlier this year. Last Friday, an autopsy and toxicology tests found that Natasha had died of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). 

“It was simply the introduction of the tampon into her body, which caused toxic shock syndrome to take effect” the family wrote on Facebook.

The rare, life-threatening bacterial infection is caused when usually harmless Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus bacteria, which live in the skin, invade the bloodstream and produce dangerous toxics, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients with TSS will experience symptoms ranging from a sudden high fever to seizures. Although it has historically been associated with using superabsorbent tampons and contraceptive sponges, TSS can affect men, children, and postmenopausal women as well. In the U.S., there are approximately 40 cases of TSS per year, causing two to three deaths.  

In Natasha’s case, it was initially believed that she was a victim of septicaemia, also known as blood poisoning. While the human body is host to a range of different bacteria, living harmlessly in various places, such as the mouth, skin, and gastrointestinal and genital tract, bacteria entering the bloodstream that are left untreated could be fatal.

Despite falling ill, the teenager remained in “good spirits,” and even told off her mother, Mandy Scott, for ”fussing,” saying that she felt much better, The Daily Mail reported

Bupa, an international health care group, told The Daily Mail: “It's not exactly understood why using a tampon is linked with toxic shock syndrome, but tampon absorbency (the amount of menstrual blood a tampon absorbs) is thought to be a factor.”

The 14-year-old’s family has now called for action by public health groups, such as Public Health Wales, and the two major tampon companies in the U.K., to raise awareness about the rare infection among young girls by providing age-appropriate sexual education. The Falbers have reached out to general practitioners and the education system in Gwent, where they have achieved some success with their campaign launch for TSS.

"All the age-appropriate pupils attending schools in Gwent have been made aware of toxic shock syndrome. We are determined to make at least everyone in the U.K. aware of what the symptoms are and what the risks are,” said the family, according to The Daily Mail.

A spokesman for Public Health Wales said: "[Natasha’s] death was a tragedy and something we don't want to see happen again."

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to measure absorbency using a standard method and describe the tampon's absorbency on the package, using standardized terms such as "junior," "regular," "super," and "super plus,” regardless of the brand. Manufacturers are also required to include information on the labels about the signs of TSS, and how to minimize the risk.

To reduce the risk of TSS, it's recommended that women alternate their tampon, or internally worn products, with pads. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illnois, Urbana-Champaign, suggests using a tampon with the minimum absorbency needed in order to control flow, and to review the information regarding absorbency of the tampon brand. Women who have been previously diagnosed with TSS should not use tampons.

To learn more about the dangers of feminine hygiene products click here.

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