Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria. Toxic shock syndrome usually affects people who are menstruating, people using barrier contraceptives, and people who recently had surgery. It is rare, with only 135 cases reported in the United States in 2000.

Toxic shock syndrome occurs when bacteria that live inside the body produce a particular toxin. This toxin causes severe inflammation which can cause problems throughout the body.


If you use tampons for menstruation (periods), you should alternate tampons with pads, use the minimum absorbency tampon you need to control flow and change tampons as directed. Read the product insert included with the tampons for absorbency and more information.

If you recently had surgery, keep wounds clean to avoid infection. Change bandages regularly. Tell your doctor if you see unusual redness or swelling.


The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome start suddenly with a high fever (102° F or higher) and a rash. In severe cases, toxic shock syndrome can cause low blood pressure. Other symptoms may include:

  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pains
  • Headache


Toxic shock syndrome requires immediate medical attention. Health care providers treat it with antibiotics and other medications, close monitoring and supportive measures.

If you think you or a family member has toxic shock syndrome, go to a doctor or hospital immediately. If you are using a tampon, remove it and tell your health care provider.