Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious but uncommon infection caused by either
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or by streptococcus bacteria.
Originally linked to the use of tampons, especially high-absorbency ones and
those that are not changed frequently, it's also known to be associated with the
sponge and diaphragm birth control methods. In the most common form of toxic
shock syndrome, the bacteria live in the vagina of women who are infected, and
the bacterial growth is encouraged by the presence of a tampon. However, these
toxins can be produced from bacteria in other locations in the body as well.
- Fewer- greater than 1020 F
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat & cough
- Nausea &
- Abdominal pain
- Organ failure (usually kidneys and liver)
- Redness of eyes, mouth, throat
A woman who is
has recently given birth has a greater risk for strep TSS,
especially if one of her children has strep throat. Any pregnant
woman or new mother with a child who shows signs of strep throat
should talk to her gynecologist or obstetrician.
TSS can progress rapidly and cause life-threatening complications, treatment
almost always takes place in a hospital where a person's condition can be
closely monitored. Treatment for shock or organ failure is usually needed before
any test results are available.
The course of treatment includes:
- Removal of the source of the infection. If a woman is using a
tampon, diaphragm, or contraceptive sponge, it is removed immediately.
Infected wounds are usually drained and cleaned to rid the area of bacteria.
- Treatment of complications of the illness. The specific
treatment depends on what problems have developed. Large amounts of
intravenous (IV) fluids are typically used to replace fluids lost from
vomiting, diarrhea, and fever and to avoid complications of low blood
pressure and shock.
- Administer of antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are
producing the toxins causing TSS. An antibiotic that stops toxin production
is started immediately to treat symptoms.
Menstrual toxic shock syndrome can be prevented by
avoiding the use of highly absorbent tampons. You can reduce your risk by
changing tampons more frequently and using tampons only once in a while (not
regularly) during menstruation.
If you're a woman using tampons:
- use a tampon with the lowest absorbency suitable
menstrual blood flow
- change your tampon frequently - washing your
hands before and after you insert it
- use a sanitary towel or panty liner from time to
time during your period
- never insert more than one tampon at one time
- use a sanitary towel at night instead of a
tampon. If you do use a tampon at night, insert a new tampon before going to
bed and remove it as soon as you wake up
Once you have had TSS you can get it again. Women who have had TSS are advised
not to wear a tampon or use an internal barrier contraceptive such as a
diaphragm or cap.