Toxic Shock Syndrome Causes, Prevention And Treatment


Toxic shock syndrome is an unusual, occasionally deadly, side effect of certain bacterial infections. Staphylococcus aureus (staph) toxin production is typically the cause of toxic shock syndrome, but group A streptococcus (strep) toxin production can also contribute to the sickness.

Toxic shock syndrome can strike anybody, including postmenopausal women, postmenopausal women, and even males. Risk factors for toxic shock syndrome include skin wounds, surgery, and the use of tampons and other products like menstrual cups, contraceptive sponges, or diaphragms.

An uncommon but potentially fatal illness known as toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is brought on when germs enter the body and release toxic substances.

Although it is frequently linked to young women using tampons, it may affect people of all ages, including men and children.

TSS deteriorates rapidly and, if untreated, can be lethal. If it is identified and treated right away, the majority of patients recover completely.


Toxic shock syndrome is most frequently caused by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) germs. The bacterium group A streptococcus (strep) can potentially be the cause of the condition.

Bacteria from either streptococcus or staphylococcus can induce toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

These bacteria often reside harmlessly on the skin, in the nose, or in the mouth, but if they penetrate further into the body, they can produce toxins that destroy tissue and impair the function of organs.

Your risk of developing TSS may be increased by the following:

  • Using nasal packing to treat a nosebleed
  • Having a staphylococcal or streptococcal infection, such as cellulitis, impetigo, or a throat infection
  • Using tampons, especially if you leave them in longer than recommended or you use "super-absorbent" tampons using female barrier contraceptives, such as a contraceptive diaphragm or cap
  • Having a problem with your skin, such as a cut, burn,

TSS cannot be passed from one individual to another. You can acquire it more than once since once you have got it, you do not build immunity to it.

How to check if you have Toxic Shock Syndrome?

If you experience any toxic shock syndrome symptoms or indications, contact your doctor right at once. If you recently used tampons or if you have a skin or wound infection, this is very crucial.

Risk Factors

Anybody is susceptible to toxic shock syndrome. Nearly half of the toxic shock syndrome cases associated with staphylococci bacteria are menstruating women; the remaining cases involve elderly women, men, and kids. Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome can affect anyone.

Instances of toxic shock syndrome include:

  • Having skin injuries like burns or wounds
  • Having just had surgery
  • Using menstruation cups, superabsorbent tampons, diaphragms, or contraceptive sponges
  • Being infected with a virus, such as the flu or chickenpox 


Toxic shock syndrome may manifest any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • An abruptly high fever
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Nausea or diarrhoea
  • A sunburn-like rash, especially on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle pain
  • Your eyes, lips, and neck are all red.
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) symptoms appear out of the blue and swiftly worsen. They consist of:

  • A fever and flu-like symptoms, including a headache, feeling chilly, worn out, having an aching body, a sore throat, coughing, and feeling ill
  • Diarrhoea
  • A sunburn-like rash that is all over the body
  • Bright red lips, tongue, and eye whites
  • Fainting or dizziness 
  • Trouble breathing 
  • Confused

Sometimes, even though it may not appear diseased, the wound on your skin where the germs entered your body may exist.


If you use tampons, check the labels and choose the one with the least amount of absorbency. Tampons should be changed often, ideally every four to eight hours. When your flow is light, switch between tampons and sanitary pads, and utilise mini pads.

The symptoms of toxic shock might return. People who have previously had it may do so again. Tampons should not be used if you have toxic shock syndrome or a history of significant staph or strep infections.

You can lessen your chance of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS) by doing the following:

  • Get medical advice and swiftly tend to wounds and burns. Always use a tampon with the lowest absorbency appropriate for your period if you see symptoms of an infection, such as swelling, redness, or increased discomfort.
  • During your period, alternate using tampons, sanitary towels, or pantyliners.
  • Wash your hands before and after using a tampon, and replace them as frequently as recommended on the box (about every 4 to 8 hours).
  • When using a tampon at night, you should never have more than one in your vagina at once. Instead, insert a fresh one before bed and take it out when you wake up.
  • When using female barrier contraception after the end of your menstruation, adhere to the manufacturer's recommendations for how long you may leave it in.
  • If you have had TSS in the past, you should refrain from using tampons or other forms of female barrier contraception.


If toxic shock syndrome strikes, you will probably need to stay in the hospital. You will be given the following treatment:

  • Take antibiotics while medical professionals look for the source of the illness.
  • Get fluids to treat dehydration and medicines to stabilise your blood pressure if it is low.
  • Obtain comfort treatment to treat further symptoms and indications.

Kidney failure may arise from the staph or strep bacteria's toxins and the ensuing hypotension. You could require dialysis if your kidneys fail. 


Surgery can be required to drain the infection or remove dead tissue from the infection location.

Toxic shock syndrome is identified in a crisis situation. However, if you are worried about your chance of developing toxic shock syndrome, consult a doctor.

Describe your risk factors and discuss prevention. You can use the information below to get ready for your appointment.

  • Any prerequisites for appointments should be understood. Find out if you need to do anything in advance, like restrict your food, when you schedule the appointment.
  • Even symptoms that seem unrelated to the appointment's purpose should be noted down.
  • Note significant details about yourself, such as significant pressures or recent life changes.
  • If you get periods, note the day your most recent one began.
  • Make a list of all the prescription drugs, vitamins, and dietary supplements you use.
  • If you can, bring a family member or friend with you. Someone who travels with you could recall details that you overlooked or forgot.

You may make the most of your time with your doctor by preparing a list of questions in advance. Some fundamental inquiries to ask your doctor about toxic shock syndrome include:

  • What is most likely the root of my symptoms or illness?
  • What additional factors may be responsible for my symptoms or condition?
  • Which exams do I need?
  • Which course of action is ideal?
  • What are some alternatives to the main strategy you're recommending?
  • These additional medical issues are present in me. How can I handle them together the best?
  • Are there any rules I have to abide by?
  • Should I consult a professional?
  • Is the medication you are recommending available in generic form?
  • Are there any printed materials I may bring with me, such as brochures? What websites would you suggest?
  • Do not be afraid to ask further questions either

If you have toxic shock syndrome (TSS), you will likely need to get intensive care unit treatment after being admitted to the hospital.

TSS treatment options include:

  • To treat the illness with antibiotics
  • In certain instances, pooled immunoglobulin—purified antibodies extracted from donor blood—may also be administered to assist your body in battling the infection.
  • Oxygen to aid breathing water to prevent organ damage and dehydration
  • Medication for lowering blood pressure
  • Dialysis In extreme circumstances, surgery may be required to remove dead tissue if your kidneys cease working. Rarely, amputation of the afflicted region may be necessary.

Although most individuals begin to feel better within a few days, it might take 

many weeks before you are fully recovered.

Complications of Toxic Shock Syndrome

The course of toxic shock syndrome can move quickly. Possible complications include:

  • Shock
  • Death 
  • Renal failure


For further information please access the following resources:

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Page last reviewed: May 24, 2023

Next review due: May 24, 2025

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