What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but potentially life threatening bacterial infection caused by the release of toxins from an overgrowth of bacteria. TSS can affect men and women of all ages, including children and postmenopausal women.

What causes it? Toxins produced by either Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Although TSS has been associated primarily with the use of superabsorbent tampons, it can also result from using diaphragms, cervical caps, or menstrual sponges, as well as burn or wound infection, the use of a prosthetic device, and surgery.

What are the signs/ symptoms? TSS is considered a medical emergency. If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
  • Sudden high fever
  • Confusion
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Red eyes, mouth, throat
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Red rash on palms and soles of feet
  • Seizures
 

Who is at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome? Those at risk for TSS include menstruating women, especially those who use tampons, women who have recently given birth, anyone who has had a staph or strep infection, recent surgery, a wound infection or infected burn, anyone who uses a prosthetic device, and anyone who has had a nosebleed severe enough to need packed medical gauze to stop it.  

Can Toxic Shock Syndrome be Avoided or Prevented? What is Toxic Shock Syndrome? Preventing infection is the best way to avoid TSS. If you have an open wound or burn, properly clean it and keep it clean. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. If you use tampons while menstruating, use a low absorbency type and change them often (every few hours). Always wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon. Alternate between using tampons and pads and use pantiliners on your lightest days. Women who have had TSS are likely to get it again. If you’ve toxic shock syndrome in the past, or a serious staph or strep infection, don’t use tampons.

How is Toxic Shock Syndrome treated? Left untreated, TSS can lead to organ failure and death, so if you suspect you may have TSS, call your doctor and get to an emergency room as soon as possible; toxic shock syndrome is a medical emergency. If you are a woman with a tampon, diaphragm, sponge, or cervical cap in place, remove it before you get to the E.R. If you forget, the staff will remove it for you. At the hospital, you may get an IV of fluids, antibiotics, and blood pressure medicine. If your TSS is due to an infected wound, the medical staff will clean the wound thoroughly. You may be given blood plasma and kidney dialysis if your kidneys are failing. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent toxic shock syndrome from causing organ damage, failure, and death. A hospital is the best place to be if you suspect you may have TSS.   At Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health, our OBGYN staff offers women in the Colorado Springs area personalized, comprehensive health care for all phases of life, from puberty through the childbearing years, into menopause and beyond. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment for a pap smear, pregnancy test, or wellness exam. We look forward to helping you achieve your best health.