Maura Higgins has opened up about a "very bad experience" of suffering from toxic shock syndrome (TSS) after a tampon got stuck inside her for three months.
The former Love Island star was sharing her story on Shopping with Keith Lemon and revealed she was "so ill" after discovering a tampon had been left inside her for so long.
While TSS is rare, it is a life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins.
"I did have a very bad experience," she told Lemon. "I’m not a doctor, I don’t know much about that [TSS], but I know you are not meant to leave a tampon inside for more than, I think it’s nine hours, I think that’s the max."
The NHS recommends changing your tampon or menstrual cup around every four to six hours, depending on your period, but products should typically not be left in longer than eight hours.
Higgins continued: "There was a tampon inside me for three months. When the doctor found it, it was stuck to my cervix. And I was so ill.
"I did not know what was going on," she added.
Read more: Can your period really get 'stuck'?
The reality TV star was speaking out about her experiences to help raise aware of the dangers of TSS, which she says people can die from.
"Young girls might not have noticed, like you go on a night out, what if you got really drunk and forgot, like, these things actually do happen, and people don’t speak about it," she added to Lemon.
In a further discussion of the subject Higgins went on to try to discourage the shame around periods, which despite efforts remain something of a taboo topic.
"I remember even being in school, I used to get my tampon out the bag, push it up my sleeve and then go to the toilet like that… thinking back, why was I doing that? It’s nothing to be ashamed about, that’s why I think it’s an important topic isn’t it?"
What is toxic shock syndrome?
According to the NHS, TSS is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins.
The condition is a medical emergency, as it gets worse very quickly and can be fatal if not treated promptly. However, if diagnosed and treated, usually with antibiotics, most people make a full recovery.
While it is often associated with tampon use in young women, TSS can actually affect anyone of any age – including men and children.
Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome
The NHS warms symptoms of TSS can start suddenly and get worse quickly.
They can include:
a high temperature
flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, feeling cold, feeling tired or exhausted, an aching body, a sore throat or a cough
feeling and being sick
a widespread sunburn-like rash
lips, tongue and the whites of the eyes turning a bright red
dizziness or feeling faint
Watch: Maura Higgins speaks about being sexually assaulted by cab driver after falling asleep in taxi
While these symptoms could be due to something different, the NHS advises you contact your GP, a local out-of-hours service, or NHS 111 as soon as possible if you have a combination of these symptoms.
The chances are you won't be suffering from TSS, but you should not ignore potential symptoms.
If you're wearing a tampon, the NHS advises you remove it immediately. You should also tell your doctor if you've been using a tampon, recently had a burn or skin injury, or if you have a skin infection such as a boil.
You should go to your nearest A&E department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance immediately if you have severe symptoms or they are rapidly getting worse.
Preventing toxic shock syndrome
There are certain measures you can take to help reduce the risk of suffering from TSS including always using a tampon with the lowest absorbency suitable for your period and alternating between tampons and a sanitary towel or panty liner during your period.
The NHS also recommends changing tampons regularly, usually at least every four to eight hours and washing your hands before and after inserting a tampon.
You should also never have more than one tampon in your vagina at a time and when using a tampon at night you should insert a fresh tampon before going to bed and remove it as soon as you wake up.
It is also important to remember to remove a tampon at the end of your period.