Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is an uncommon but serious, and potentially life threatening infection. It is caused by bacteria getting into the bodies bloodstream and releasing harmful toxins. Toxic shock syndrome is often associated with high absorbency tampon used by women, but it can ultimately affect anyone of any age – including men and children.  

picture with tampons

Causes of toxic shock syndrome:

TSS is caused by staph (staphylococcus) or strep (streptococcus) bacteria. Both bacteria live on the skin and in the nose or mouth and cause no harm to our bodies, but when they enter deeper in the body they can. When the bacteria enters the blood stream they release dangerous toxins that can damage tissue and stop organs from working. There are a few things that increase your risk of getting TSS, such as using high absorbency tampons, or leaving them in your body for too long. Another way for this infection to occur is having a problem with your skin, such as cut, burn, boil or wound.

Preventing TSS:

It is important to learn what toxic shock syndrome is and in what ways you can protect yourself from it. Some of the things you can do to reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome are:

  • Always use a tampon with the lowest absorbency suitable for your flow
  • Alternate between tampons and pads or panty liners
  • Never use more than one tampon at a time
  • Change tampons regularly – as often as directed on package
  • Wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon

Read more about tampons

What are the symptoms of TSS?

women looking at thermometer after taking her temperature

Toxic shock syndrome can be very serious so when experiencing symptoms be sure to seek medical help. Symptoms of TSS can start suddenly and get worse quickly. They include:

  • High temperature
  • Flu like symptoms – headache, feeling cold, feeling tired, aching body, sore throat
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion

Treatment for TSS:

If you have toxic shock syndrome, you’ll need to seek emergency medical help. If a doctor suspects your condition is TSS, you will be referred to a hospital immediately. Treatment may involve:

  • antibiotics to treat the infection
  • fluids to prevent dehydration and organ damage
  • oxygen to help your breathing
  • medicine to help keep your blood pressure under control.

No need to be nervous when using a tampon, just be cautious and take notice if you have any symptoms.

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“Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).” Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, 30 Apr. 2014, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/toxic-shock-syndrome-tss.

Johnson, Traci C. “What Are the Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome?” WebMD, WebMD, 30 Mar. 2019, https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/what-are-toxic-shock-syndrome-symptoms#1.

Todd, Nivin. “Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) – Basics & Causes.” WebMD, WebMD, 2 Apr. 2019, https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-toxic-shock-syndrome-basics#1.

“Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).” (TSS) Symptoms & Prevention | Tampax®, https://tampax.com/en-us/tips-and-advice/period-health/toxic-shock-syndrome.

“Toxic Shock Syndrome – Symptoms and Causes.” Familydoctor.org, 22 Jan. 2019, https://familydoctor.org/condition/toxic-shock-syndrome/.

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