Common Health Problems  »  Women’s Health

Self-Care / Prevention

To Help Prevent TSS

  1. Practice good hygiene.

  2. Keep wounds clean. See your doctor for signs of an infection (increased redness, swelling, and/or pain; pus; and/or fever).

  3. Change tampons and sanitary pads every 4 to 6 hours or more often. When you can, use sanitary napkins instead of tampons. Alternate tampons with sanitary pads or mini-pads during a menstrual period. Lubricate the tampon applicator with a water-soluble (nongreasy) lubricant, like K-Y Jelly, before you insert it.

  4. Don’t use tampons if you’ve had TSS in the past.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a form of blood poisoning. It rarely occurs, but can be fatal.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms come on fast and are often severe.

  1. High sudden fever.

  2. Flat, red, sunburn-like rash on the trunk of the body that spreads. The skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet peels. Redness of the lips, eyes, and tongue may also occur.

  3. Muscle aches. Extreme fatigue and weakness.

  4. Vomiting. Abdominal pain. Diarrhea.

  5. Rapid pulse.

  6. Sore throat.

  7. Dizziness. Fainting. Confusion.

  8. Drop in blood pressure. Shock.


Toxic shock syndrome is caused when certain bacteria release toxins in the blood. Most often, TSS affects women who use super absorbent tampons. These trap and allow bacteria to grow. It can also result from wounds or an infection in the throat, lungs, skin, or bone.

Questions to Ask

Do you have any of these signs and symptoms?

  1. Vomiting, then abdominal pain, and profuse, watery diarrhea.

  2. Muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, and “pink eye” with a clear discharge.

  3. High fever without a skin rash, but with any other symptom listed in this question.

Does a wound have increased redness, swelling, and/or pain? Does pus or other fluid drain from the wound?


Do you have signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome listed above?

Toxic shock syndrome needs emergency medical care.