The first time baby Rahul went up in flames, at just nine days old, India villagers thought his mother, Rajeswari, "set him on fire deliberately," she says. She and her family were ostracized, but worse, Rajeswari found her baby burning three more times. The now 3-month-old infant is currently hospitalized for his extensive burn injuries, and doctors—who say he suffers from spontaneous human combustion (SHC)—keep a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher near his bed at all times, the Hindu reports.
The head of pediatrics at the hospital calls this case the "rarest of rare occurrence." In SHC cases, combustible gas is apparently excreted from the body, and the Times of India reports that the tiniest spark (the paper cites static electricity generated by silk fabric as an example) can start a fire. "We researched online and found that over the past 300 years, 200 such cases were reported," he adds. The last reported case occurred in the US in 2010, according to the Deccan Chronicle. Rahul's parents will be taught how to raise the baby so he's less likely to combust, doctors say. "We have to teach them to avoid sending the child out in the sun and specify the kinds of clothes he can wear when he grows up," explains one, adding that "matchsticks, crackers, or anything that can catch fire should not be kept near him." (Though these cases are few and far between, Ireland believes it saw its first case of SHC in 2010.)