Septic and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

At Children's Health℠, we follow a patient-centered model of treatment. By putting the patient first, we bring together all the hospital's resources to meet a child's needs.

Critical care physicians work with nurses, respiratory care therapists and others to ensure the best and most innovative treatment is available for each child at a moment's notice.

What is Septic and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

Septic shock and toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in children are both related to bacterial infections. Whereas septic shock follows an overwhelming immune response to the infection, TSS is the result of exotoxins of the bacteria themselves.

Sepsis and septic shock

Sepsis may occur as the result of an abnormal immune response to a bacterial infection. A flood of antibodies can lead to widespread inflammation throughout a child's body, causing poor blood flow to organs. In the most severe cases, known as septic shock, the child's blood pressure may drop, leading to a weakened heart and organ failure.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a complication resulting from certain bacterial infections. Toxins produced by either staphylococcal (staph) or streptococcal (strep) bacteria may cause toxic shock syndrome in children. Risk factors for TSS include surgery and skin wounds. As with septic shock, TSS can be life threatening. The condition is rare in children.

What are the signs and symptoms of Septic and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)?

Symptoms of sepsis may include fever, fast heartbeat, sweating and rapid breathing. As septic shock develops, a child may become confused or lack alertness. Despite a drop in blood pressure, the child's skin will be warm. Finally, the extremities will become pale and cool, often with blue and purple discolorations or mottling.

Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome may include high fever, low blood pressure, a rash and organ dysfunction. TSS usually progresses rapidly.

How is Septic and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) diagnosed?

Sepsis is diagnosed using blood and urine cultures, along with blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen monitoring. Toxic shock syndrome is diagnosed with blood cultures or samples from the infection itself.

How is Septic and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) treated?

Medication and fluids

Treatments for both septic shock and TSS include antibiotics, medications to stabilize blood pressure and fluids to address dehydration.


Surgery may be necessary to treat the infection.


In the event of kidney failure, a child may need dialysis.

Pediatric ICU (PICU)

To provide support for patients with acute life-threatening conditions, Children's Health has 83 intensive care beds. Children's Health Pediatric ICU also conducts leading-edge research and brings new therapies to patients — often years before they are available at other institutions. Our critical care physicians deliver a full range of intensive care services for children, including those with septic shock or toxic shock syndrome.