Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious illness that
may rapidly become life threatening.
This web page
describes the TSS caused by the common bacteria
Staphylococcus (Staph) aureus which normally live
harmlessly on the skin and in the nose, armpit, groin
or vagina of one in every three people.
of TSS is caused by group A Streptococcal bacteria
and it is described on the Streptococcal Toxic Shock
Syndrome fact sheet.
Who gets toxic shock syndrome?
TSS occurs in some people who have a Staph aureus
While almost anyone can develop TSS,
menstruating women and women using barrier
contraceptive devices (diaphragms and vaginal
sponges) have a greater risk of TSS.
A greater risk of
TSS is also associated with:
Postoperative Staph wound infections
How is toxic shock syndrome spread?
TSS is not a contagious illness. You can’t catch TSS
from another person and you can’t give TSS to
What are the symptoms of toxic shock
Sudden fever over 102º F
A “sunburn-like” rash
Signs of shock including:
Low blood pressure and
Restlessness and confusion
Peeling of skin 1-2 weeks after onset of illness
Plus involvement of three or more of the following:
Vomiting or diarrhea
Severe muscle pain or abnormal lab tests relating
to muscle damage
Redness of eyes, mouth or vagina
Abnormal kidney function blood tests
Abnormal liver function blood tests
Blood test showing low platelet count
Disorientation or alterations in level of
consciousness in the absence of fever and low
How soon after exposure do symptoms
For most people with TSS, the time when they are
first exposed to Staph aureus is unknown.
How is toxic shock syndrome diagnosed?
Since TSS can quickly become life threatening, your
physician may not be able to wait for lab tests.
diagnosis and treatment of TSS is based on your
symptoms. There must also be no other bacteria or
virus identified as a more likely cause of the illness. Blood/tissue tests can help confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for toxic shock
Treatment for TSS includes antibiotics to kill the
Staph aureus, surgical removal of the source of
infection (such as an infected wound or foreign body), and treatment of any complications.
shock is present, emergency treatment often requires
intravenous fluids and hospital intensive care.
How can toxic shock syndrome be prevented?
Follow the directions on package inserts when
using tampons, contraceptive diaphragms, and
Wash your hands with soap and water before
inserting or removing a tampon, diaphragm, or
Change your tampon at least every 8 hours or
use tampons for only part of the day.
leave your diaphragm or contraceptive sponge
in for more than 12 hours.
Use tampons with the lowest absorbency that
The risk of toxic shock syndrome is
higher with super-absorbent tampons.
Keep all skin wounds clean to prevent infection.
Sores from shingles
Insect and animal bites
Keep children from scratching chickenpox sores.
Women who are menstruating and develop a
high fever with vomiting and diarrhea must
discontinue any vaginal tampon use
immediately and contact their health care
Where can I get more information?
Contact your physician or the Southern Nevada Health District, Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300.