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Home > Health Library > Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare illness that happens suddenly after an infection. It quickly can harm several different organs, including the lungs, the kidneys, and the liver, and it can be deadly. Since toxic shock syndrome gets worse quickly, it requires medical treatment right away.
An infection caused by strep or staph bacteria can lead to toxic shock syndrome. These bacteria are common and usually don't cause problems. But in rare cases, the toxins enter the bloodstream and cause a severe immune reaction. This reaction causes the symptoms of TSS.
If you have had TSS, you are more likely to get it again.footnote 1
Toxic shock symptoms get worse quickly and can be deadly within 2 days. Symptoms include:
Other TSS symptoms may include:
Having sudden, severe symptoms is one of the most important clues that you may have toxic shock syndrome. If you think you have TSS, get medical care right away.
Doctors usually diagnose toxic shock syndrome based on your symptoms. Tests can help show whether staph or strep bacteria are causing the infection. Tests you may need include:
Treatment for toxic shock syndrome almost always takes place in a hospital. Treatment includes:
Sometimes surgery is needed if TSS developed after surgery or if the infection is destroying the skin and soft tissue (necrotizing fasciitis).
After having TSS, you may get better in 1 to 2 weeks. But it will take longer if you had major complications.
You can take steps to prevent TSS:
Ainbinder SW, et al. (2007). Toxic shock syndrome section of Sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic infections. In AH DeCherney et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 689-691. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Group A Streptococcal (GAS) Disease. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/index.html.
Larioza J, Brown RB (2011). Toxic shock syndrome. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2011, pp. 88-90. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Stevens DL, et al. (2006). Successful treatment of staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome with linezolid: A case report and in vitro evaluation of the production of toxic shock syndrome toxin type 1 in the presence of antibiotics. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 42: 729-731.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDennis L. Stevens, MD, PhD - Infectious Disease
Current as ofNovember 18, 2017
Current as of:
November 18, 2017
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Dennis L. Stevens, MD, PhD - Infectious Disease
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