The mystery behind the case of the three-month-old boy who went up in flames deepened on Saturday with doctors ruling out any abnormality and hinting at child abuse.
Initial test results of blood and urine samples of the baby were normal, said doctors at Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital (KMCH).
Rahul, born on May 22 to Rajeswari and Karna, was brought to the hospital on Thursday with severe burn injuries. The child was referred to KMCH by the Villupuram collector.
According to Rajeswari, the baby went up in flames nine days after his birth. This was followed by three more similar episodes. Each time, she doused the flames with water, Rajeswari said. The child last went up in flames a fortnight ago.
J. Jagan Mohan, head of plastic surgery, who examined the baby, said there was very remote possibility of self-ignition. “Such a case has not been reported so far,” he said. “The injuries have healed and the scars are from an older accident that may have occurred less than three weeks ago. We need to explore the possibility of child abuse,” he said.
Since the baby does not have any injuries on his back, it is possible the child was hurt when he came in contact with a hot object, he said.
A probe into the kind of clothes the child was wearing during the time of the accident may provide clues on what led to the fire, said plastic surgeons.
Ordinarily, a child of his age should weigh six kg but Rahul was just 4.5 kg, said doctors. R. Narayana Babu, head of paediatrics intensive care unit where Rahul is being treated, said the baby was being provided supplementary feed for nourishment besides being breastfed.
“We have sent sweat swabs, blood and urine samples to a private laboratory to test for aberrations in metabolic functions. The results are expected on Monday,” he said.
History of self-ignition
Incidentally, the baby’s mother hails from Nedumozhiyanur which was in the news in 2004 after residents there complained their houses spontaneously burst into flames.
Investigations revealed phosphorus stuffed in wet cow dung had been placed in the huts. When the dung dried up, phosphorus, which has a low ignition point, lit up, setting the huts on fire. Enmity between two groups had led to one party resorting to such acts to harm their rivals. At the time, there were also reports of animals going up in flames and it was found phosphorus had been rubbed on the animals too, causing them to go up in flames.