One teenager shared the story of how almost she died when doctors gave her the “freshers flu” and sent her home. She was actually suffering from toxic shock syndrome.  

Ellie Makin, 18,  Droylsden, Greater Manchester, had ‘drunkenly’ fallen asleep with a tampon in after a night out  and woke up with flu-like symptoms, nausea and dizziness the next day.  

Her university welfare team rushed her to The University Hospital in North Durham after she fell ill.

She was released after three hours. Doctors deemed her toxic shock-free and attributed her symptoms to viral infections.  

However, after returning home to her family she experienced worsening symptoms. She was taken by Tameside General Hospital to be diagnosed with toxic shock. Tampon use is often linked to this life-threatening condition.

The climate science student spent five days in hospital and is now encouraging other teenagers to trust their instincts and seek a second opinion if they feel dismissed or labeled a drunk student. 

Ellie stated that she felt flu-like symptoms after a few days of freshers. 

My apple watch recorded that my heart rate was 120 while I lay down. It’s usually 55. This was very concerning.

“I had drunkenly fallen asleep while wearing a tampon. I left the tampon on for twelve hours. So, when I Googled my symptoms, it turned out to be toxic shock.

Ellie Makin, 18, Droylsden, Greater Manchester, had 'drunkenly' fallen asleep with a tampon in after a night out and woke up with flu-like symptoms, nausea and dizziness the next day.

After fainting, she was rushed to The University Hospital of North Durham by her university welfare team. But she was discharged after a just three hours and says that doctors 'dismissed' her concerns about toxic shock and put her symptoms down to a viral infection as a result of going out drinking in university fresher celebrations.

Ellie Makin (18), Droylsden (Greater Manchester) had “drunkenly” fallen asleep after a night out with a tampon and woke up the next morning with flu-like symptoms. She also experienced nausea and dizziness.

After travelling back to her family home she woke up the following day with worse symptoms and was taken to Tameside General Hospital where it was confirmed that she had toxic shock - a life-threatening condition often associated with tampon use.

She returned to her family, but the next day she was experiencing worsening symptoms. Tameside General Hospital confirmed she was suffering from toxic shock. This is a potentially fatal condition that can be caused by tampon usage.

I told my mom and she phoned welfare. Then they arrived at my door. They took me to the hospital after I fell asleep when I answered the door.

“I was discharged from the hospital after I had my blood tested. They told me that my white blood cell count was elevated, but couldn’t identify where it was coming from.

“I was sure it wasn’t viral because it caused me dizziness and fainting. I told the doctors that it was not toxic shock, and they did nothing.

“I feel dismissed. The tests should have been run and it shouldn’t just be freshers flu.

The rash on Elli's skin which is a symptom of toxic shock - doctors sent her home with Fresher's Flu

Elli developed a skin rash that was a sign of toxic shock. Doctors sent Elli home with Fresher’s Flu.

The teen now claims she's dealing with relatively unknown long-term effects of the condition, including rapid hair loss, which has left her with a thinned hairline, and peeling skin on her hands and feet.

According to the teenager, she has been dealing with long-term and unknown effects such as rapid hair fall and skin peeling.

According to the teen, she was discharged from Durham Hospital after three hours and her mom picked her up.


Toxic shock syndrome can lead to a very serious bacterial infection. However, it’s easy for it to be misdiagnosed as the symptoms look similar to others and is rare.

The infection occurs when normally harmless streptococcus aureus (or staphylococcus) bacteria infiltrates the bloodstream and releases dangerous chemicals.

Although the exact prevalence of TSS is unknown, doctors claim that it can affect around 1 or 2 in 100,000 women.

The mortality rate is between 5 and 15%. It can recur in between 30- and 40% of cases.  

Symptoms usually begin with a sudden high fever – a temperature above 38.9°C/102°F.

A flu-like condition that causes headaches, muscle aches and sore throats in a matter of hours can be caused by the virus.

You may also experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea as well as feeling faint and confused.  

Most women are at greatest risk for developing toxic shock syndrome while having menstruation. This is especially true if the woman uses tampons, has recently had a baby, or is using an inner barrier contraceptive like a diaphragm.

Tampon boxes recommend that they be changed every four to eight hours. However, many women forget to do so and keep them in their pouches overnight. 

The treatment may include antibiotics for the illness, oxygen to aid with breathing, fluids that prevent organ damage and dehydration, medication to lower blood pressure, and medications to reduce swelling.

If the kidneys cease functioning, dialysis might be necessary. 

Surgery may be necessary to remove any dead tissue in severe cases. Rarely, amputating the area may be required. 

TSS should be prevented by women using the lowest absorbent tampons for their flow.

Also, Tampons must be replaced as per the instructions on their packaging. Usually every four to eight hour. 

The symptoms got worse and Ellie was admitted to Tameside Hospital. It was later confirmed that Ellie suffered from toxic shock syndrome. This is a condition where bacteria in the body releases harmful chemicals.

She was shocked at the fact that she came so close to her fatal diagnosis.

The patient spent five days in Tameside Hospital recovering, receiving IV drips of antibiotics and other treatments.

Ellie stated that the next day, it was worse. My heart beat was 130 while I lay down and my temperature was 40. It was like having sunburns all over my body.

“I was very worried that Tameside Hospital would declare it toxic shock. However, it was an unexpected relief to know they actually cared about me and were able to provide the necessary treatment.

Durham Hospital could have performed more tests if there were any chance that it might be toxic shock. This is especially due to the fact that I had left my tampon on for that time.

‘I’m glad that it didn’t get worse because then you could end up with a ventilator and having to have your fingers or toes amputated.

“They warned that this is a serious disease. You are fortunate to not have it.” I was scared and annoyed at Durham Hospital’s treatment of me.

According to the teenager, she has been dealing with long-term and unknown effects such as thinned hairlines and peeling skin.

Ellie worries that the effects of toxic shock syndrome could be severe and can last for six months. Ellie joined an online support group made up people who have been through similar struggles.

Following her terrible experience, she vows to take extra care with tampons. She also urges other women to do so and get a proper diagnosis for toxic shock symptoms.

Ellie stated that she will still use tampons, but would be more careful about the time they are left in.

“You learn about it at school, but it is so uncommon that you don’t think it will happen to you.

“You must always trust your instincts and seek a second opinion when you are dismissed by a physician.

“Even though you may only be experiencing the smallest symptoms, get your health checked as it can lead to fatalities.”

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust spokesmen said, “There may be times that a patient experiences additional symptoms after they have left the hospital’s care. In these cases, it would help to confirm a particular diagnosis.

“We encourage our patients to visit the hospital again if new symptoms arise or if their symptoms do not improve.

“We are sorry Ellie was unhappy about the care she received. We would love to have a chance to talk with her and discuss her experience, if this would be helpful.