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Signs Every Woman Should Know: Toxic Shock Syndrome

Thursday, January 25, 2018 8:42 AM

Before the first menstrual cycle women should be warned about toxic shock syndrome, a rare illness that happens suddenly after an infection.  The illness most commonly occurs with the use of tampons-especially superabsorbant tampons – which was the case for a model in 2012, resulting in the loss of her legs.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

To help us better understand what toxic shock syndrome is, Charla Simon, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology at NorthShore, explains that it is an infection caused by a staph or less commonly strep bacteria. The illness can happen with tampon use, after surgery, or with open skin wounds (like chicken pox). Dr. Simon shares the signs of toxic shock syndrome, what you can do and how to prevent it:

What are the symptoms?

  • Speedy fever over 102°F
  • A sunburn-like or peeling rash that appears especially on the palms or soles of feet
  • Severe pain in infected area
  • Signs of shock such as low-blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, fainting, restless or feeling confused
  • Flu-like symptoms, including aches and pains, stomach cramps, a headache or sore throat
  • One of the most important clues to it being toxic shock syndrome is that the symptoms happen suddenly.

How is it diagnosed?

If you think you have signs go to a hospital where a medical professional will run these tests:

  • Vital sign and examination to find the source of the infection
  • Blood test to look for bacteria
  • Chest x-ray

How is it treated?

  • Removing what caused the infection and cleaning the area
  • Treating the complications that may have happened due to toxic shock
  • Prescribing antibiotics to fight infection

Recovery can take anywhere between one to two weeks, or more depending on the severity of the infection.

How can I prevent toxic shock syndrome?

  • Clean all skin wounds
  • Help prevent children from scratching at open wounds or sores
  • Avoid using tampons for 12 weeks after birth
  • Change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours, depending on the instructions on the box