The 411 On Toxic Shock Syndrome

Posted on: 27 September 2018

Menstruation is a natural part of a women's life. While the cycle is necessary for conception, menstruation is also a way for the uterus to cleanse itself. Unfortunately, menstruation can bring about a few unappealing side effects in addition to causing complications for some women. While it is considered rare, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) does affect one in every 100,000 people each year. This guide and your obgyn's help will teach you about the causes, signs, and treatment options for TSS.


The use of tampons, especially super-absorbent tampons, has been linked to TSS. Tampons can irritate the internal tissue of the vagina. This irritation allows dangerous bacteria to seep into the tissue, causing an infection. Staphylococcal bacteria are the most common bacteria linked to toxic shock syndrome.

Tampons are not the only issues that can lead to TSS. Complications of childbirth, contraceptive sponges and devices, boils from STDs or infections, and other injuries that can irritate the vaginal tissue can all increase your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome.  

Most experts are not sure if the actual tampons, the tampon irritation, trauma to the vagina, or presence of bacteria before the period starts is actually the cause of TSS.


One of the most surprising things about toxic shock syndrome is that you may not experience any symptoms in your vaginal area, even though the bacteria linked to the disorder starts in this area of your body. The bacteria will quickly invade your bloodstream, which will cause signs of the infection to be displayed in other areas of your body.

Each person is different, but if you are experiencing multiple of the following signs, you may have TSS:

  • Sunburn-like rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Redness of the eyes and throat
  • Muscle soreness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness/Confusion
  • Seizures

Seek out medical care immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Without proper treatment, TSS can be life-threatening.


Fighting the infection quickly is imperative to prevent permanent damage to the organs. In the early stages of the disorder, prescription antibiotics may be taken orally. If TSS has progressed, your doctor will recommend IV antibiotics that will require a stay in the hospital. Many patients are also given IV fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration and oxygen to help improve breathing.

Learning how to prevent TSS is key, to keeping yourself safe. Make sure to change your tampons regularly, even if you are using a higher-absorbency tampon. Wash your hands before and after inserting/removing tampons to prevent bacteria and other germs from spreading. Finally, consider wearing sanitary napkins during parts or all of your period.