Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a serious complication of infection from the Staphylococcal aureus bacteria. This bacteria is commonly on the skin and other parts of the body including the vagina. When the bacteria enters the bloodstream, sudden, acute symptoms occur which include lowered blood pressure that can lead to shock and possible kidney failure.

In the early 1980s a small epidemic of TSS broke out mostly affecting women who were using a particular brand of super-absorbent tampon. The tampons may have been left in place too long or they might have caused scratches on the surface of the vagina, allowing the toxins to enter the bloodstream. TSS has also been associated with diaphragms, vaginal sponges and cesarean sections.


  • a sudden high fever
  • a red, peeling rash that resembles a sunburn, most often found on the hands and feet
  • nausea and vomiting
  • a severe drop in blood pressure
  • shock
  • reduced output of urine


  • Use tampons less often or give them up altogether.
  • If you have had problems with the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria before, don’t use tampons.
  • If you choose to use tampons, alternate tampons with sanitary napkins.
  • Change tampons often and avoid using the super-absorbent type.
  • If the tampon leaves your vagina dry or is hard to pull out, it’s more absorbent than you need.
  • TSS tends to reoccur, if you’ve had it once, don’t use tampons at all.
  • If you experience TSS symptoms, remove the tampon immediately and call your doctor.
  • If you use a diaphragm or vaginal sponge remove the device as soon as safely possible after intercourse.
  • Avoid wearing tampons overnight or between periods.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon.


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