Toxic Shock Syndrome: Care Instructions

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Toxic shock syndrome is a rare illness. It's caused by poisons from strep or staph bacteria. Usually these bacteria cause an infection that can be treated easily. But sometimes they cause a serious reaction that can make your organs fail. This can include your lungs, kidneys, and liver.

This illness sometimes happens when a tampon is kept in too long. You can also get it after you get chickenpox, the flu, or skin wounds.

Toxic shock syndrome needs treatment right away in a hospital.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Talk to your doctor before you use tampons or some barrier forms of birth control. These include a diaphragm and the cervical cap or sponge. They can increase your chances of getting toxic shock syndrome again.
  • Keep all wounds clean. This includes cuts, burns, sores, and bites.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new or worse rash.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you might faint.
  • You are short of breath.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.