Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious medical condition which results from a bacterial infection. Often it is caused when the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus enters the bloodstream and produces toxins. This condition can affect people of all ages and has sometimes been linked to tampon use in menstruating women.

Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening medical condition. In some instances, it can affect major organs in the body. Call an ambulance or go to the emergency room if you suspect that you have symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. Timely treatment can prevent organ damage and save your life.

In most cases, TSS symptoms appear suddenly.

Symptoms can be many and different.

  • Sudden fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Redness of eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures

Risk Factors.

  • An open skin wound
  • Use of a diaphragm or vaginal sponge to prevent pregnancy
  • Recent childbirth
  • Tampon usage

A doctor may diagnose toxic shock syndrome based on a physical examination. In addition, a doctor will check your blood or urine for traces of Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria.

If your doctor suspects TSS, they may do a blood test to check your liver and kidney function. They may also take swabs of cells from your cervix, vagina and throat. These samples will tell if the bacteria that cause TSS are present.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a medical emergency. Your doctor will prescribe an intravenous antibiotic to fight the bacterial infection. This will require a special IV line often call a PICC line. Many people with this condition will stay in intensive care for several days and if discharged they can receive up to 6-8 weeks of antibiotic treatment at home.

If a vaginal sponge or tampon triggers TSS, your doctor may need to remove the object from your body. If an open or surgical has caused the toxic shock syndrome the doctor will drain pus or blood from the wound to help clear the infection.


  • Wash your hands often to remove bacteria
  • Keep cuts and surgical sites clean
  • Change your tampon regularly