This Guy Was Killed By His Bagpipes. No, Really. Here’s How
You’ll never guess some of the strange ways you can meet your end
You can wear your seatbelt, eat your vegetables, and always wait 30 minutes after a meal to swim—but something as innocuous as playing the bagpipe could still do you in.
That’s what happened to a 61-year-old man from the U.K. when he contracted an inflammatory fungal lung disease called hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a new case study in the journal Thorax reported.
After he died from the rare disease, his doctors discovered that his bagpipes—which he played every day—were riddled with HP-causing spores.
The moist environments of woodwind instruments, like bagpipes, saxophones, and trombones, can serve as fertile breeding grounds for the deadly fungus, the researchers say.
Still, you don’t need to toss your trombone just yet: Fewer than 1 in 100,000 people per year contract HP—and most of the cases come from exposure to animals, not instruments, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Rare as it may be, though, the poor guy who died from “bagpipe lung” isn’t the only person to have shockingly rotten health luck. Dig through the medical literature, and you’ll find all sorts of crazy disease triggers.
Your chances of being struck by lightning are probably better than dying from one of these causes. But here are six more weird ways you could get seriously sick.
HOW YOUR GUT CAN TURN INTO A MICROBREWERY
After feeling dizzy, a Texas man checked himself into the ER. He blew a 0.37 blood alcohol concentration, which is about 5 times the legal driving limit.
But the guy said he hadn’t been drinking, and his wife backed him up. They also told the doctors that this wasn’t the first time this had happened.
The culprit? Something called gut fermentation syndrome, a condition where a person becomes intoxicated without ingesting any alcohol, says Barbara Cordell, Ph.D, who authored a case report on the man in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine.
Sounds impossible, but what was happening was that the man—who was an avid home brewer—actually had on overgrowth of brewer’s yeast in his intestines.
Then, whenever he ate carbohydrates, the yeast fermented them into alcohol. He pretty much had a miniature distillery in his gut, making him drunk without ever having to drink any alcohol.
Cordell says it’s not clear why this guy’s insides were holding onto the brewer’s yeast—usually people digest it just like anything else they swallow.
She treated him with a low-carb diet and anti-fungal meds to kill the yeast, and the man was cured.
HOW A HICKEY CAN GIVE YOU A STROKE
A New Zealand woman checked into a hospital in 2010, complaining of limb weakness on her left side.
It turned out that she was having a stroke. And a hickey on her neck was to blame.
The hickey was on top of her carotid artery, and the bruise caused a partial blockage of blood flow to her brain, according to a case study written by the Auckland doctors who treated her.
That’s probably what caused her stroke, the researchers say.
The doctors say stroke-causing carotid blockages due to trauma are “a rare phenomenon”—and when they do occur, they usually stem from car accidents. So you probably don’t have too much to worry about when you and your partner get frisky.
HOW A TATTOO CAN GIVE YOU A FATAL INFECTION
Back in 2011, a handful of recently-tattooed New Yorkers started coming down with weird red, bumpy skin rashes.
Dermatologists eventually identified the rashes as mycobacteria—a potentially deadly type of infectious disease. They traced the mycobacteria to contaminated tattoo inks, according to a New England Journal of Medicine report.
Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers tattoo ink a cosmetic product, it doesn’t need to undergo as rigorous safety screenings as other things you inject into your skin, the authors say.
That means even if your tattoo parlor is meticulously hygienic, it still could be using ink that was contaminated during the manufacturing process. So there’s no way to know for sure if your ink is safe.
While mycobacteria infections from tattoos are super rare, consult your doctor if you develop a red rash or tiny raised bumps after you get inked.
HOW YOUR PILLOW CAN GIVE YOU ASTHMA
Your bed is gross: In fact, we’ve reported that 10% of your pillow’s weight is made up of dust mites and their excrement.
Unfortunately, it could be loaded with asthma-causing fungi, too, finds a study in Allergy. And severe asthma attacks can be fatal.
The typical pillow contains many species of fungi, but one in particular called A. fumigatus may be fueling a nationwide increase in asthma, according to the study.
The researchers found that feather pillows tended to contain fewer fungi than synthetic pillows, which have a looser weave, allowing fungi to make their way inside more easily.
More and more people are choosing synthetic pillows instead of down, which could be exposing more people to the asthma-causing fungi, the researchers hypothesise.
HOW WALKING ON THE BEACH CAN GIVE YOU E. COLI
Ever think the water looks suspect at crowded public beaches? It’s actually more likely that the sand itself will make you sick.
Research from the University of Hawaii at Manoa found the levels of foecal bacteria—stuff like E. coli, which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting—could be up to three times higher in beach sand than in the nearby water.
They study authors say sand provides the kind of protected, shady environment in which bacteria thrive.
So if you don’t want to end your beach trip on an explosive note, you might not want to let your buddies bury you up to your neck in sand.
Pushing contaminated sand into a cut (say, on your foot while walking on the beach) or getting some in your mouth could lead to an infection.
HOW WASHING YOUR WINDSHIELD COULD GIVE YOU A FATAL INFECTION
Every time you wash your windshield, you might be spraying a fine mist of Legionella bacteria, the germs that cause Legionnaire’s disease, a study from the University of Arizona found.
That’s because the reservoir that holds your car’s wiper fluid can be prime breeding ground for the bacteria.
Breathe in Legionella, and you can become gravely ill: This nasty infection can cause muscle aches, fever, chills, diarrhea, headaches, and shortness of breath. And 1 in 10 people die from complications to the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Fortunately, Legionnaire’s is rare. Fewer than 20,000 pop up each year in the U.S. Older, contaminated aircon units are often thought to be the culprit.
HOW VACUUMING YOUR HOUSE CAN GIVE YOU BOTULISM
A good rule of thumb: Anything that the manufacturer tells you to change regularly—from water purifiers to air conditioning filters—can make you sick if you don’t follow instructions.
And that’s also true of vacuum bags, a study in Environmental Science & Technology suggests.
When researchers used wind tunnels to collect and analyze the air household vacuums spit out while operating, they found older, unchanged bags contained all kinds of illness-causing germs—including a bacteria that causes the sometimes-fatal disease botulism.
The researchers’ advice: Spend a little extra cash on a nicer, newer vacuum—many of which contain an extra filter to catch bacteria on the way out, as well as on the way in.
Also, change the bags per the owner’s manual to prevent the buildup of bacteria.