what is toxic shock syndrome( TSS)?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) - Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention Methods

Introduction To TSS

Over the years, a lot of ground has been covered in terms of the options available to menstruating women regarding period products and we have now moved to more advanced alternatives in the form of tampons and menstrual cups, which are not only more effective to use, but are also incredibly hassle-free as compared to the age-old pad.

But, using new products, especially those that need to be inserted inside the vagina, certainly comes with its own set of precautions and issues that need to be kept in mind. One such question that often crops up during conversations with women who use tampons is regarding toxic shock syndrome or TSS. Let’s take a look at toxic shock syndrome’s meaning and everything associated with it. 

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

When you get an open cut or wound, there is a slight chance that bacteria may enter your body through it, from which, it may also enter the bloodstream, thereby infusing it with harmful toxins that may pose a threat to your organs and life. In women, this condition may manifest itself in those who use tampons or a menstrual cup and is known as toxic shock syndrome.

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by bacterial toxins that spread in one’s body, owing to the improper use of tampons and is caused by the TSS bacteria, staphylococcus aureus, which causes an infection when a tampon is lodged inside the vagina for a long time or when its fibres scratch the skin during the process of either insertion or exertion, thereby creating a rash that acts as an entry point for bacteria to enter the bloodstream.  

Risk Factors

The primary cause of toxic shock syndrome is when there is an open wound. So, in case you have: 

  • recently inserted or pulled out your tampon a bit harshly and it hurts while inserting another one
  • recently delivered a child 
  • have been using a diaphragm or vaginal sponge,

chances are that you might be at risk of catching the infection caused due to TSS. 

Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms 

Since the problem can vary from person to person, the symptoms for everyone with TSS are not the same. However, for a person having the infection, the following symptoms appear commonly: 

  • Fever
  • Headache 
  • Muscle Ache 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Low Blood Pressure 
  • Confusion 
  • Soreness of the Mouth and Throat 
  • Seizures 

Obviously, these symptoms are very common in a plethora of other diseases, but if you face these symptoms after using tampons or after a vaginal surgery, you should contact your doctor. 


The diagnosis for TSS is usually after a physical examination and is based on your symptoms. The doctor may also ask for the following to assert his prognosis: 

  • urine or blood sample to check the presence of TSS-causing bacteria,
  • tests will also be conducted to check liver and kidney function to eliminate the threat of other diseases like kidney stones and  
  • a swab of your vagina, mouth and cervix will be analysed to assert the prognosis.

Toxic Shock Syndrome Treatment

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a medical emergency and if not treated at the right moment, it can also be fatal. 

  • For this, doctors will mostly prescribe an intravenous (IV) antibiotic to fight off the bacterial infection spreading throughout your body, but some patients may still have to stay in the ICU for days. 
  • Other treatments can depend on underlying causes like if someone has TSS due to a lodged-up diaphragm, the doctors may have to surgically remove it. 
  • Apart from that, medication to stabilize blood pressure and IV fluids to fight dehydration and resurrect the body’s immune system may also be provided. 
  • However, based on the severity of the syndrome, some people are left with severe complications like liver, kidney or heart failure. 

Prevention from TSS

All of this information now warrants you to ask one question: are tampons safe? Yes. While TSS sounds like an ominous health hazard, one needs to take special precautions to avoid its onset. Due to its nature, it’s fairly easy to understand how one can be more cautious to avoid this problem: by using tampons safely. Here are few tips that will help you navigate through the risk of developing TSS: 

  1. Change your tampon every 6-8 hours. 
  2. Wear a sanitary pad on low flow days to avoid the rash caused by friction of tampon fibres and vaginal walls. 
  3. Use a reliable, silicone-based menstrual cup. 
  4. Clean your hands before or during the insertion process, paying special attention to your nails so that they don’t scratch the vaginal walls. 
  5. Wear a low-absorbency tampon during periods. 

TSS can be avoided if one manages to proceed with caution by following all the rules mentioned above. As for a safe tampon- choice, that is soft and easy to use, you can try the Carmesi tampon, which is made with 100% organic cotton, is naturally soft and rash-free for a comfortable insertion. The fact that it comes without any dioxins or chlorines adds to its natural, biodegradable element, giving you a hassle-free period. It is also dermatologically tested and approved by doctors, so that your body is always safe. 

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