'Recognising the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome saved my life'

This is a photo of Phoebee Bambury

Phoebee Bambury survived toxic shock syndrome (TSS) by spotting the symptoms early - and she wants others to learn from her experience.

The rare condition, which can be fatal, is caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins.

It's usually associated with using a tampon for too long.

The 19-year-old now wants more young people to be taught about the dangers of TSS in school.

Phoebee explains that she began with a headache and a fever, both symptoms that sound like the common cold.

It was the beginning of two weeks spent in hospital.

"The first symptom I had was the headache one evening while I was at university," she tells Newsbeat.

But later that night Phoebee's condition got worse, she developed muscle pains and started vomiting.

This is a photo of Phoebee with her Boyfriend Scott.
Image caption Phoebee had been spending the night at her boyfriend's house when her symptoms got worse

"Just like anyone would normally think, I thought maybe I'm ill and I'm just going to have a few bad days.

"You don't want to think 'oh no toxic shock', but in my head I thought those are the symptoms - I need to check this out."

Although there are many ways you can get toxic shock syndrome, it is often associated with the use of tampons.

The symptoms of TSS can be found on tampon packets.

"I thought [the symptoms] all matched so I phoned 111 and they said I was spot on and needed to get to a hospital ASAP," she said.

Phoebee's condition deteriorated and within 10 minutes of being in A&E she was hooked up to a drip, with an industrial-sized fan by her side to try and bring down her body temperature.

She also tells Newsbeat how the infection caused her body to swell.

This a photo of Phoebee after she had been checked into hospital.

Doctors confirmed that Phoebee's toxic shock syndrome was caused by her use of tampons but she insists that she followed the guidelines.

"I've never left a tampon in for longer than eight hours and at the time I started to feel very ill I didn't even have one in," she explains.

She adds that her degree in pharmacy and personal experiences had made her more aware of the infection.

"My friend's mum died of toxic shock so I'd always been aware of it," she said.

But cases like this are extremely rare.

There are no exact figures on how many women get TSS from using tampons but of the 40 people estimated to be diagnosed in the UK every year - on average only two people will die from the infection.

    • There are around 40 cases of TSS in the UK every year.
    • Women, men and children can all develop TSS.
    • Risks can include tampons and open wounds such as cuts, burns and insect bites.
    • Flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, chills and a sore throat can be linked to TSS.
Things to know about toxic shock syndrome(Source: NHS England)

"To raise awareness in more young people, I genuinely believe toxic shock needs to be a part of sex education," Phoebee said.

"You get talks about tampons, periods and condoms at school and TSS should be a part of that.

"It's an associated risk with tampons and I know it's rare but it is serious," she added.

Phoebee has now been out of hospital for two weeks, and during her recovery she's been encouraging her university to do more to raise awareness about the infection.

"If you know the symptoms and take all the precautions then your chances of getting TSS are so slim.

"I know the best advice for women would be to just not use tampons but that's not possible for everyone, we just need to educate more people to take precautions."

"High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life," a Department for Education spokesman said.

"It is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and, as the education secretary said recently, we are looking at options to ensure all children have access to high-quality teaching in these subjects."

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