Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) may sound familiar to you, especially if you’ve ever purchased or used tampons. On nearly every package you buy, you’ll find the warning label regarding tampon use and TSS. In fact, about half of all diagnosed TSS cases are a result of tampon use. But, how concerned should you really be, and how common is the syndrome? Read on to learn more about the symptoms of TSS, how you can prevent it, and what to do if you’re experiencing symptoms.
Toxic shock syndrome is extremely rare–it’s estimated that most board-certified MDs will not see a case of TSS during their medical career. However, its rarity doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious and aware. TSS can be fatal if untreated.
TSS is a result of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria already present in one out of three men, women, and children. It’s most common in the nose but also resides in the armpit, vagina, or groin area. Group A Staphylococcus doesn’t directly cause TSS. Certain strains of this bacteria form a toxin that can enter the bloodstream. If this occurs, this becomes a dangerous situation.
Only half of TSS cases are the result of tampon use. The others come from infections, cuts, burns, and postsurgical conditions. These cases of TSS carry the same symptoms, so it’s good to be aware of the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, just in case.
The best thing to do to avoid TSS is to form very healthy habits when it comes to tampon use. It’s important to remember not to leave a tampon in overnight. Doctors suggest using a maxi-pad or other method for overnight menstruation. Women should also frequently change their tampon–about every one to four hours–to help prevent the bacteria from forming toxins. It’s also a good rule of thumb to wipe front to back after urinating, and to urinate immediately after sex. This helps prevent bacterial growth, and not just during your period–it’s essential to follow this advice all of the time.
When it comes to cuts, burns, and infections, you should follow all the advice given by your medical provider. Generally, you want to keep cuts and burns sterile and clean and change the bandages or dressing at least once per day.
Women may wonder if they have a case of TSS or just other period-related symptoms. Doctors advise that TSS symptoms are hard to ignore, and often present as flu-like symptoms. A case of toxic shock syndrome will be far more painful and uncomfortable than cramps, or regular aches and pains associated with normal menstruation. Patients should seek medical help for a high fever and rash–these two symptoms are synonymous with most TSS cases. A TSS-related rash will appear suddenly, often on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and may look like a sunburn. Also, patients may have a sudden change in vital signs, such as a drop in blood pressure. Women may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, redness of the eyes, mouth, and throat, confusion, and seizures.
If you are experiencing several of these symptoms at once, it is imperative to visit the emergency room immediately. Patients should not opt for a “wait and see” method, or call to make an appointment for their doctor. As the name suggests, toxic shock syndrome can quickly progress to shock, followed by coma or death. It’s important to get medical care immediately if you suspect TSS. For more information about TSS symptoms, or for treatment regarding other gynecological care, make an appointment today at The Woman’s Clinic. Now offering 3D mammography, we have two convenient locations in Jackson and Madison and provide all levels of gynecological and obstetric care at every life stage.