Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) & Symptoms

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) & Symptoms

This section will help you learn the facts about TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome): symptoms, remedies, and prevention.

What is TSS?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare, but potentially serious disease that has been associated with tampon use. In rare cases, TSS can be fatal. TSS is believed to be caused by toxin-producing strains of the staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

What causes TSS?

The bacterium that causes TSS is found most commonly on the skin, in the nose, armpit, groin or vagina. In fact, about one third of the population carry it without any problem at all. However, in a very small number of people, certain strains of the bacterium produce toxins that can cause TSS. Most people have the antibodies in their bloodstream to protect them from the toxin if it is produced, but many do not.

What is the link between TSS and tampon use?

The link is not clearly understood. However, tampon research shows that the risk of tampon-related TSS is associated with absorbency: the higher the absorbency the higher the risk; the lower the absorbency, the lower the risk. That is why a woman should always use the lowest absorbency tampon for her menstrual flow.

What are the symptoms of TSS?

Some of the symptoms are much the same as the flu, but they can become serious very quickly. The warning signs of TSS are:

Sudden high temperature (102 degrees F/38.9 degrees C or higher)
Vomiting
Diarrhea
A sunburn-like rash
Muscle aches
Dizziness
Fainting or feeling faint when standing up

If you have any of these symptoms and are wearing a tampon you should remove the tampon immediately and contact your doctor for immediate treatment. Tell the doctor that you have been using tampons and suspect that you may have TSS. Don’t worry about being an alarmist. What's important is to get speedy treatment.

Can the risk of tampon-related TSS be reduced?

There are several things that can be done. Women should use the lowest absorbency tampon for their menstrual flow. The risk of tampon-related TSS may also be reduced by using pads as an alternative from time to time during a period.

Can anyone get TSS?

TSS can affect anyone — men, women or children. Some cases of TSS are caused by infections following insect bites, burns, or surgery. About half of the reported cases are associated with women using tampons.

Can you catch TSS from other people?

No. TSS is not a contagious disease.

Is it possible to get TSS more than once?

A person who has had TSS can develop it again. If a women has had TSS in the past, she should seek medical advice before using tampons again.