Who Is Affected by Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) can affect men, women, and children. Most people who get TSS are in good health before they become ill. The illness usually develops rapidly. And most people become much sicker than would be expected if they simply had the flu or another minor infection. This can be a life-threatening illness, so immediate medical treatment in a hospital is always needed.

Most cases of TSS that people have heard about have been related to women using tampons, which is called menstrual TSS. Young women ages 15 to 24 are affected most often. footnote 1

Nonmenstrual TSS can follow outbreaks of the flu or be a rare complication of chickenpox . About half of the people who develop TSS have nonmenstrual TSS. Nonmenstrual TSS may be related to a history of antibiotic use. It is most likely to develop in women who are in the hospital after childbirth or a surgical procedure. footnote 2

Menstrual TSS has declined since women have become more aware of the direct relation of TSS with tampon use. Also, certain extremely absorbent tampons are no longer available, which means that a woman must change a tampon more often. This reduces the risk for TSS.

While menstrual TSS cases have decreased, nonmenstrual TSS continues to occur at a steady rate.


  1. Reingold AL (2008). Toxic shock syndrome (staphylococcoal). In RB Wallace et al., eds., Wallace/Maxcy-Rosenau-Last Public Health and Preventive Medicine, 15th ed., pp. 483–499. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
  2. Suen J, et al. (2009). Toxic shock syndrome. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 862–884. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer Dennis L. Stevens, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Current as ofMay 22, 2015