How can toxic shock syndrome (TSS) be prevented?

  • Consider using sanitary pads instead of tampons during menstrual periods or use pads at night. Switching from tampons to pads every other day or during the times that the menstrual flow is heaviest may also help to reduce risk.
  • Women who use tampons during their menstrual periods should change them often. Tampons should be changed at least every four to eight hours. If the flow is heavy, tampons may have to be changed more frequently.
  • Use a tampon with the lowest absorbency required for your flow.
  • Do not use tampons when you are not menstruating.
  • Women who have recovered from a case of toxic shock syndrome should avoid using tampons during menstrual periods. Toxic shock syndrome is more likely to recur in women who have had it.
  • Make sure surgical incisions are kept clean to avoid infection. See your doctor if you notice unusual swelling, redness or heat near the wound.
  • Follow directions when using vaginal contraceptives such as sponges or diaphragms.

What factors increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?

Most of the cases of toxic shock syndrome are associated with the use of highly absorbent tampons. Women of childbearing age who use tampons during menstruation are at greater risk of developing it. The incidence of toxic shock syndrome is approximately one case per 100,000 menstruating women. It occurs most often among women age 15 to 25 years of age who use tampons. However, cases of toxic shock syndrome also occur among older women, men and children. Patients who have undergone surgery may develop wound infections that result in TSS. Among women, other risk factors include gynecological procedures, such as childbirth, induced or spontaneous abortions, and the use of birth control devices such as the diaphragm or contraceptive sponges. In general, the risk of developing TSS not associated with menstruation is about three times higher for women than for men.

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