Toxic Shock Syndrome - TSS Symptoms

Toxic Shock Syndrome - TSS symptoms result from an extremely rare but potentially serious illness characterized by shock and multiple organ dysfunctions. It is a type of blood poisoning that will make you feel severely ill very quickly. Out of the small number of people who fall ill of TSS each year (around 40 cases in the UK), 2-3 die from it.

TSS is caused by a toxin made by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria which normally lives harmlessly on the skin and in the nose, armpit, groin or vagina.

Everyone can get TSS. But 55 percent of the reported cases of the disease are associated with women using tampons. Men, women and children also get TSS following localized infections such as burns, boils, insect bites or surgery.

TSS symptoms

Some TSS symptoms are much like severe flu and are only diagnosed after all other possible viruses or infections have been ruled out. TSS symptoms include some or all of the following:

  • High fever that appears suddenly, sometimes accompanied by chills
  • Confusion, seizures, headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting of feeling faint
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • A rash that appears like a sunburn
  • Peeling of the skin on your palms or the soles of your feet that begins 1 or 2 weeks after the onset of symptoms
  • Muscle aches
  • Low blood pressure (or hypotension)
  • Organ failure (gastrointestinal, muscular, blood system, liver, kidneys, mucous membrane, and nervous system.

With early diagnosis TSS can be treated. Treatment involves examination for and removal of foreign material (i.e., tampons, vaginal sponges or nasal packing) and drainage of the identified site of infection (i.e., surgical wounds). Antibiotics and other supportive measures (i.e., intravenous fluids, blood pressure support and dialysis) are also used to counteract the TSS symptoms.


Prevention is always better than cure. So to prevent catching TSS, women should be mindful of their health and hygiene especially during their period. They should:

  • Use tampons with the lowest possible absorbency suitable for period flow.
  • Wash hands before and after inserting a tampon.
  • Change tampons regularly.
  • Never insert more than one tampon at a time
  • Alternate between tampons and nights during periods.
  • Not use tampons if there are skin infections near the genitals.

Though TSS appears to be rare, it is critical to stress the importance of health hygiene especially of girls during their monthly periods.

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