5 Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms You Need to Look Out for

5 Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms You Need to Look Out for

4 minute read

Toxic shock syndrome gained notoriety many decades ago (think 80’s!) due to super-absorbent tampons. It had a life-threatening impact, and therefore wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

However, as time went by, improvements were made regarding the use of tampons and their safety.

Now, you might ask: is there still a risk of toxic shock syndrome with tampons?

The short answer to that is yeswith all period care products, there is a risk of TSS—especially if it’s left inside for a long time or if it's a super-absorbent tampon used with a lighter flow. However, the risk is extremely small for menstrual cup users when used as directed and cleaning instructions are followed.

That said, if you’re worried about toxic shock syndrome, there are several steps you can take to minimize your chances of getting it. Also, if you do have toxic shock syndrome, it’s fully treatable if caught early. 🙂

In a nutshell, toxic shock syndrome:

  • Happens when certain strains of bacteria infect your body and release toxins into your bloodstream. 
  • Is caused by staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) in menstrual products.
  • Can damage your organs and be life-threatening if left untreated.

Here are 5 common toxic shock syndrome symptoms and ways to prevent it: 

5 Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome

toxic shock syndrome symptoms

1 - High Fever And Other Flu-Like Symptoms

One sign of toxic shock syndrome is a sudden fever with a temperature equal to or higher than 102 ℉ (38.9℃) [

Fact: When you reach these temperatures, it most likely means your body is fighting against infection. So, when looking for toxic shock syndrome symptoms, watch out for flu-like symptoms such as [2, 3]:

  • Chills
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Headache

While there’s a possibility that these symptoms may be attributed to other health conditions, it’s still important to have yourself checked for toxic shock syndrome—especially if you’re wearing a tampon! 

2 - Sunburn Or Peeling Skin

Another sign of toxic shock syndrome is sunburn-like rashes showing up on your body [4, 5]. Your skin may also peel—especially on your palms and soles—after 1 to 2 weeks [1, 4]. 

3 - Your Digestive System Has Gone Haywire 

Your digestive system may have also been disrupted by toxic shock syndrome, meaning you’ll experience [3]:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

4 - Redness of Throat, Eyes, and Your Vagina

Your mucous membranes may become red and swollen—which may manifest in any of the following [1, 3, 4]:

  •  Sore throat (pharyngitis)
  •  Eye redness (conjunctivitis)
  •  Red appearance of your vagina 

5 - Low Blood Pressure And Dizziness 

You may experience signs of shock because of an insufficient blood supply in your body [
6]— leading to:

  • Feeling dizzy and faint 
  • Being disoriented 
  • Having a feeling of lightheadedness 

As we mentioned, while these symptoms might be caused by other health conditions, it’s super important to get in touch with your healthcare provider if experiencing any of them!

In short, treat toxic shock syndrome as a medical emergency [2]. Also, if you have a period product inserted, and you’re showing symptoms and are worried, remove it right away to be safe.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Toxic Shock Syndrome

So what happens when you contact your medical provider? To diagnose toxic shock syndrome, your doctor will run a series of tests. This can include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Blood cultures
  • Tissue cultures 
  • A lumbar puncture 
  • A pelvic examination

If your doctor determines you have toxic shock syndrome, you’ll be given antibiotics—usually via an IV [3, 5].

Note: IV fluids will help to stop any damage to your organs, and you’ll likely be prescribed other necessary medicines to control blood pressure. 

Remember that the symptoms progress rapidly and prompt treatment is needed to avoid serious complications [3] — so don’t hesitate to get yourself checked out! 🙂

Risk Factors of Toxic Shock Syndrome

This is different from Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome
(Image source: Pexels)

Normally, staph bacteria are found on the surface of your body and are harmless [« Back to Blog


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