Toxic shock syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a potentially fatal disease that is caused by bacteria. It is a form of blood poisoning which results when poisons (toxins) are released by the suspect bacteria. It can result from wounds or infection in the throat, lungs, skin or bone. Most often though, it affects women of childbearing age, especially women who use super absorbent tampons. These may trap the bacteria and provide a breeding ground for them, especially when left in place for a long period of time. Also, the super absorbent fibers in some tampons may cause microscopic tears in the vagina that allow the transmission of the bacteria’s toxin. Though not common, TSS can also occur in persons following surgery, including women who have had cesarean sections.

Symptoms come on fast and are often severe. They include:

  • High sudden fever.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Sunburn-like rash, including peeling skin on hands and feet.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness.
  • Sore throat.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting.
  • Drop in blood pressure.

Questions to Ask

Are symptoms of toxic shock syndrome present? These could occur during your menstrual period or any other time of month.Yes: Seek Care

Self-CarePrevention Procedures

  • Never use tampons if you’ve experienced TSS in the past.
  • Use sanitary napkins instead of tampons whenever possible.
  • Alternate tampons with sanitary pads or mini-pads during a menstrual period.
  • Don’t use superabsorbent tampons.
  • Don’t use tampons with plastic applicators.
  • Lubricate the tampon applicator with a water-soluble (nongreasy) lubricant like K-Y Jelly before insertion.
  • Change tampons and sanitary pads every 4 to 6 hours, or more frequently.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021