At 14 years old, Melanie Galeaz started to experience period pain and strange gynecological symptoms. Too embarrassed to discuss the full extent with her doctor, Melanie accepted the doctor’s diagnosis of Lyme disease.
It wasn’t until two years after the symptoms began that Melanie discovered the reason for her pain wasn’t Lyme Disease, but due to forgetting to take a tampon out.
Melanie shares her story to raise awareness of tampon TSS (toxic shock syndrome) and to ensure women are being extra vigilant when using tampons.
A Lyme Disease diagnosis
As Melanie explains on TikTok, the misdiagnosis of Lyme disease came after she was bitten by a deer as a child. She had all the symptoms of Lyme disease so her doctor gave her medication.
“The doctor was really disregarding me and he was being mean and scary,” she said.
She took the Lyme disease medication and was feeling better.
However, she was still experiencing gynecological issues that, at 14, she was too embarrassed to discuss.
“I started getting all these pains in my body. And some really gross stuff was happening down south.”
Speaking about this type of thing with your doctor isn’t easy, especially at 14, and especially if the doctor isn’t respecting you.
For two years Melanie continued to experience pain and symptoms. At 16 she went to a gynecologist who did an internal exam.
“She cranked me open, looks and she gasps.”
That’s when the doctor told her, “You have a tampon stuck horizontally under your cervix.”
Very painful removal
Thankfully, Melanie had the tampon removed but it was very painful and was dissolving inside her. The symptoms she had been experiencing were most likely not from Lyme disease, but from the very early stages of toxic shock syndrome, a very serious but rare condition that can be caused by tampons.
Toxic shock syndrome results from toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. The bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream which cause symptoms of shock. The toxins can also damage organs and body tissue, which can cause death if left untreated.
It can happen to anyone with a skin wound but it can also occur when using a tampon. Many people assume it only happens if you leave a tampon in too long (like two years) but this isn’t the case. It can happen even if you change your tampon often.
It is a miracle that Melanie was not rushed to the hospital beforehand.
How did she not know?
Of course, after sharing her story Melanie received a lot of questions from her followers, especially about how she could not have known, especially as there would have been an odour. Melanie explains that she did notice an odour but assumed it was her ‘natural scent’ and was too embarrassed to say anything. Instead, she would mask it with other scents.
She also shared that during the same two-year period, she pulled two tampons out at the same time, meaning, at one stage, she had three tampons inside.
“I have no idea how long that one was in for. So I had one in me for two years, one in me for an unknown amount of time, and one in for about eight hours,” she said.
While Melanie’s story is certainly unique, it’s not that uncommon to insert a tampon and forget if you did or not, especially when you’re extra busy, if you fall asleep or if you just have a lot of other things on your mind. If you do use tampons, make sure you use some sort of reminder system to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. It’s also important to have a conversation with your teen daughter about the risks associated with tampon use.
Reducing the risk of Tampon TSS
According to Health Direct, there are several ways you can help lower your chance of developing TSS. These include:
- Wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon
- Use a tampon with the lowest absorbency for your menstrual flow
- Alternate tampons with sanitary pads every so often during your period
- Change the tampons as often as advised on the pack — about every 4 to 8 hours
- Never insert more than one tampon at a time
- Make sure you remove the last tampon at the end of your period
- Use sanitary pads at night
Possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:
- A sudden high fever
- Low blood pressure
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
- Muscle aches
- Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
Call your doctor immediately if you have signs or symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. This is especially important if you’ve recently used tampons or if you have a skin or wound infection.
TSS is treated in a hospital, using antibiotics and providing support to the other functions of the body that have been affected. Treatment is normally successful if TSS is detected early on.