Teen dies from Toxic Shock Syndrome after using tampons; Find out all about TSS

The mum of a teenager who died from sepsis while on her period is begging people to learn the danger signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Jemma-Louise Roberts, 13, began feeling unwell with sickness and diarrhoea while on a family holiday and was wrongly diagnosed with Norovirus- a winter vomiting virus.

Her family were told to keep her away from hospitals but she was rushed to Wigan Infirmary after suddenly deteriorating.

Doctors at the hospital told her family they believed she had Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, caused by a bacteria linked to using tampons.

Jemma-Louise, a member of Hindley Swimming Club and competitive breaststroke swimmer, had begun using tampons as a more convenient way to keep training while on her period.

She died a week later after being transferred first to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and then Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.Jemma-Louise’s mum Diane Roberts, 45, is now speaking out to warn others of TSS danger signs as part of World Sepsis Week.tamponEarly symptoms are a high fever followed by flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

A rash across the body can then appear and TSS can cause fatal organ failure if left untreated.

Diane said: “TSS used to be talked about in the eighties but you never hear it now.

“If it can save just one more person it will be worth it.

“My husband had never heard of TSS – if one dad reads this and his daughter falls ill, it could save her life.”

Blood tests on Jemma-Louise showed the presence of the staphylococcus bacteria, linked to both TSS and sepsis, before she died.A post-mortem was not carried out following her death on March 1 last year but Diane believes TSS caused her daughter’s illness as she had been using tampons when she fell ill.

tampon 2She died from a bleed to the brain while on a heart and lung bypass machine at Alder Hey.Friends and family, including dad Tony Roberts, 43, and brother Joseph, 13, have now raised over £33,000 for Alder Hey in memory of the Standish Community High School pupil.

About Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.

TSS is a rare bacteria caused illness occurring mostly in menstruating women who use high absorbency tampons. Non-menstrual TSS risk is increased for women who use vaginal barrier contraceptive methods (such as the diaphragm), although the incidence is much lower.

These bacteria normally live harmlessly on the skin, nose or mouth but can invade the body’s bloodstream and release poisonous toxins.

The toxins also damage tissue, including skin and organs, and can disturb many vital organ functions.

Symptoms of TSS

The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) normally begin with a sudden high fever (body temperature rises above 38.9C/102F).

Other symptoms then rapidly develop, normally in the course of a few hours. They may include:

  • flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle aches, sore throat and cough
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • fainting or feeling faint
  • dizziness or confusion

A widespread sunburn-like skin rash may also occur, with the whites of the eyes, lips and tongue becoming more red than usual.

One or two weeks after the rash appears, it is common that the skin begins to shed in large sheets, especially from the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

People with streptococcal TSS may also have the symptoms of a serious streptococcal infection. For example, pain in the muscles, abdominal pain (such as after childbirth) or cough.


If TSS is suspected, hospitalization is recommended. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics will be administered.

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