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Posted on: April 2, 2019 at 9:48 am

A man has been hospitalized after smelling his socks for too long.

A 37-year-old father (named only Peng in local reports) in Zhangzhou, southeast China, began to feel chest pains. After showing up at a hospital he was admitted as an emergency case, and given an X-ray to determine the cause of his pain, as well as an accompanying cough that he’d developed.

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He was diagnosed with a fungal infection of the lungs, and kept in hospital for treatment, while doctors determined the somewhat unusual cause.

Medics took an oral history from Peng, and discovered that his condition was most likely caused by his habit of smelling his socks after he’d been wearing them. A fungal infection he’d developed on his feet was transferred to his lungs when he sniffed his socks, taking in some of the fungal spores as he did so.

Fungal spores under a microscope. Bjorn S/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Before you panic and head to the hospital to tell doctors about that time you did the sniff test to check that your socks were clean, this is unlikely to happen to you. A quick sniff, though we judge you for having so few clean socks that you need to go through your dirty laundry, probably won’t cause you to be hospitalized.

According to reports in local newspaper Fujian Daily, the man told doctors that he had become “addicted” to smelling the socks he’d worn during the day. Continued, purposeful deep sniffs of his own socks most likely allowed the fungal spores (microscopic biological particles that allow fungi to reproduce and disperse) to spread into his lungs, where they developed into the fungal infection.

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“The infection could also be attributed to the patient’s lack of rest at home as he had been looking after his child, leading to a weaker immune system,” Dr Mai Zhuanying at the Zhangzhou No. 909 Hospital told Fujian Daily.

Peng has been kept in hospital for treatment, but is expected to make a full recovery. It’s unclear why he had become addicted to sniffing his socks, and if you are thinking “hmmm that sounds like fun”, we would highly recommend scented candles or literally any other hobby instead.

Shared with permission from our friends at IFL Science.

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