is toxic shock syndrome?
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria that
is usually found on moist surfaces of the body, such as the lining of the vagina.
Most of the time they are not harmful.
However sometimes these bacteria get into the bloodstream
through cuts, abrasions, open wounds, burns or insect bites. While in the bloodstream
they release toxins (poisons). TSS is the body's life-threatening reaction to
The body goes into 'shock'. Blood pressure drops
dramatically and blood flow to vital organs is not what it should be. Death
TSS is rare nowadays.
TSS have something to do with tampons?
TSS is often associated with tampons. This is because
in the late 1970s and early 1980s, TSS received publicity due to an outbreak
of it in menstruating women. This outbreak was linked to newer forms of high-absorbency
tampons. It is thought that high-absorbency tampons may dry out and tear the
lining of the vagina when they are removed. This provides a way in for the bacteria
which cause TSS.
Since then, the number of cases of TSS has rapidly
declined. This is largely due to increased publicity about TSS and clearer instructions
on tampon packets.
Today TSS is very rare, however of the cases reported,
around half of them are amongst young women who use high-absorbency tampons.
can develop TSS?
While TSS is most commonly associated with women
who use high-absorbency tampons, anyone including men can develop TSS if they
have a cut, wound, insect bite or burn that gets infected with the bacteria.
are the symptoms of TSS?
- Sudden onset
- A high fever.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Aching muscles or abdominal pain.
- Sore throat.
- Dizziness, confusion, disorientation or hallucinations.
- A red rash that looks similar to sunburn.
- Low blood pressure.
- Red and watery eyes.
- Swelling in the hands, feet and ankles.
- Major thirst.
- An infected wound/cut/bite may be red, swollen
and painful. It may ooze blood or pus.
- If the infection is in the vagina, there may
be a foul-smelling discharge.
While TSS is rare and the prognosis is excellent
if treated properly, fatalities can occur.
is TSS treated?
Treatment is with antibiotic drugs. Intravenous
fluids are also required to treat shock and raise the blood pressure, which
in turn improves blood flow to vital organs.
can I do to help prevent TSS?
During menstruation women should:
- Change tampons frequently. (Tampons should be
changed every four to six hours.)
- Ensure you always wash your hands before and
after inserting a tampon.
- Never use more than one tampon at a time.
- If you find a tampon is difficult to remove,
change to a lower absorbency or stop using them.
- If you have any type of genital infection, use
sanitary towels instead of tampons.
At other times, both men and women should:
- Clean all skin wounds, even if they are very
- If the wound is big or deep, seek medical treatment
Sometimes. Some people who develop TSS produce
antibodies against the toxins which caused it and therefore are immune to it
for the rest of their lives. Others do not develop these antibodies and TSS
Women who have had TSS are advised not to use tampons,
contraceptive caps or diaphragms.
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