What is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

December 11, 2021 3 min read

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare and life-threatening infection which toxins are released as a result of one of two types of overgrowing bacteria:

  1. Staphylococcus bacteria (staph)
  2. Streptococcus bacteria (strep)

Who does it affect?

Toxic shock syndrome has a fast onset which requires immediate medical attention. TSS can affect anyone, including men, women and children of all ages.

Approximately half of Toxic Shock Syndrome cases have been associated with Staphylococci bacteria occurred from women that are menstruating age and the other half from older women, men and children. However, Toxic Shock Syndrome cases that have been associated with Streptococcal bacteria have been found in people of all genders and ages.

How is it caused?

Toxic Shock Syndrome is caused by the release of toxins from the growing bacteria in the vagina. For this to happen, the bacteria needs an environment to grow to release the poisonous toxins into the bloodstream. There are three main situations that this can occur:

  1. Tampon has been left in too long (more than eight hours) – creates a moist environment in which growth of bacteria can occur.
  2. Tampon is made from polyester or synthetics – provides a better environment for bacteria to grow compared to tampons made from cotton
  3. Using the wrong type of absorbency tampon for you– this can make microscopic tears in your vagina wall which can rupture tiny blood vessels when sliding a tampon into place or leaving a super-absorbent tampon when you have a light flow


It is important to become aware of the symptoms of TSS so you can receive required help if needed. Due to the large number or TSS cases in teenagers, it is especially important that teenagers are educated on the symptoms of TSS. Symptoms normally occur within three days of the beginning of your menstruation. Common symptoms:

  • Fever without chills
  • Fast heart rate
  • Low blood pressure (feeling dizzy/lightheaded when standing up after sitting down)
  • Skin looks red (almost sunburnt)
  • Redness of the tissue inside the mouth, eyes or vagina
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Liver failure
  • Sore throat

What can I do to prevent it?

There are a few precautions in which you can take to reduce the likelihood of getting TSS. These include:

  • Regularly changing your tampon (at least every four hours)
  • Use the correct tampon absorbency for your menstrual flow
  • Only unwrap the tampon if you are going to use it straight away
  • Wash your hands before and after using a tampon
  • Be gentle when inserting and removing your tampon
  • Use pads at night instead of tampons
  • Don’t wear tampons when you aren’t on your period
  • Consider using a pad or panty liner on the days when your menstrual flow is light
  • Use cotton tampons instead of tampons which are made from polyester or synthetics


Make a better choice for your va-jay-jay

Veeda feminine hygiene care makes tampons that are made from GMO-free 100% Natural Cotton and are 100% biodegradable, hypoallergenic, dermatologically and Gynecologically tested. This is important in reducing the likelihood of Toxic Shock Syndrome. We use an oxygen cleaning process instead of chlorine bleaching to ensure nothing but 100% natural cotton touches your body. Our tampons are pesticide, dioxin, chemical, chlorine, dye, fragrance and synthetic FREE.


Consider making a better choice for you and the planet by choosing Veeda.

Click here to visit our Women's Health resource.

Click here for everything you need to know about using tampons whether you’re a new tampon user or simply want to learn about potential better practices around precautions, inserting, removing and disposing a tampon.

Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.


Additional Resources


Better Health Channel. (2014). Toxic Shock Syndrome.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/toxic-shock-syndrome-tss

Bhargava, H, D. (2020). Toxic Shock Syndrome.https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-toxic-shock-syndrome-basics  

Cornforth, T. (2020). How Often to Change Tampons or Pads During Your Period.https://www.verywellhealth.com/menstrual-hygiene-how-often-to-change-tampons-or-pads-3522511


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