3-month-old boy has rare spontaneous combustion

The paediatric intensive care unit at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital on Friday received a number of curious visitors wanting a glimpse of three-month-old baby Rahul, who suffers from spontaneous human combustion (SHC). Only 200 cases suffering with this condition have been seen in the world over the past 300 years. The last reported case being in the US in 2010.

“The body burns spontaneously due to combustible gases emitting from the patient’s body, without any external source of ignition,” said Dr R. Narayana Babu, head of the paediatrics department, KMC. “Clothes and other things nearby that are inflammable may also catch fire.”
The infant was admitted to the hospital on Thursday with burn injuries. The baby had four such episodes with the first one barely nine days after his birth and another more recent one three weeks ago. “An episode may or may not recur. It’s like any other burn injury, with the likelihood of scars and secondary infections. Plastic surgery is also expected to be done. The relatives or parents have to always keep an eye on the baby. Matchsticks, crackers or anything that can catch fire should not be kept near him,” Dr Babu added.
A bucket of water and fire extinguisher have always to be kept ready near the baby’s bed. “We visited many hospitals and finally admitted him here. Nobody knows the exact cause. We hope he will be treated at KMC,” said Rahul’s father, Karan, a farmer, and his wife, Rajeshwari, who stay near a village in Tindivanam. The couple has a two-year-old daughter.

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