While people bursting into flames for no apparent reason or piles of ashes being found where there was once a human get the most publicity, there are other lesser-known forms of what appears to be spontaneous human combustion. One which happened recently involves a woman in California who had burns over 70 percent of her body that appeared to be caused by something on fire inside her.
On Thanksgiving Day, 19-year-old Yassmeen Castanada said she felt sick. A friend gave her some medication that she had taken for her own illness. That day Yassmeen’s eyes, nose and throat began to burn severely. She was taken to an emergency room where burn blisters began to appear over her entire body. Within four days, her skin was falling off just as if she was suffering from third-degree burns. She was transferred to the University of California Irvine’s burn unit, where doctors determined over 70 percent of her skin was damaged. She was given the same medical treatment a burn victim would receive, undergoing several skin surgeries.
Was Yassmmen Castanada on the verge of combusting from the inside? Fortunately, a doctor recognized these symptoms as those of a rare drug reaction known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. The symptoms include facial and tongue swelling, skin pain, blisters on the skin and on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes and genitals and the shedding of the skin. It’s easy to see how Stevens-Johnson syndrome can be mistaken as a sign a person is burning up from within.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is an extremely rare drug reaction, usually in response to an antibiotic, and can be fatal. According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatology professor at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, there is no way to predict who will have this reaction.
How many people have shown these symptoms that appear to be severe burns coming from within, possibly even dying from them, and been diagnosed as being a victim of, or on their way to, spontaneous human combustion? No one knows. Doctors recommend anyone with them get to an emergency room immediately. Oh, and don’t take someone else’s medications.
As of this writing, Yassmmen Castanada is still in the hospital and is expected to recover.