Toxic Shock Syndrome

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

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms come on fast and are often severe.

•  High sudden fever. Sore throat.

•  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.

•  Muscle aches. Extreme fatigue and weakness.

•  Abdominal pain. Diarrhea. Vomiting.

•  Rapid pulse.

•  Dizziness. Confusion. Fainting.


Toxic shock syndrome is caused when certain bacteria release toxins in the blood. It can result from wounds or an infection in the throat, lungs, skin, or bone. Most often, though, it affects women who use super absorbent tampons. These trap and allow bacteria to grow and spread. Though not common, TSS can also occur after surgery, including a C-section.


Toxic shock syndrome requires emergency medical care.

National Women’s Health Information Center

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Practice good hygiene.

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

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

•  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 insertion.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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