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Beware of moldy bagpipes: Doctors warn musicians of health concerns

Players who don't regularly clean their instruments could end up suffering from "Bagpipe lung," according to a new case study.

Here's hoping astronaut Kjell Lindgren cleaned his specially-made bagpipes after playing them in space.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Whether you enjoy the traditional sounds of a bagpipe played by a kilt-wearing musician or more daring renditions played by a Superman cosplayer on a unicycle, there are plenty of ways to appreciate this unusual instrument.

If you happen to play the bagpipe, forgetting to clean your instrument could put you at serious risk. Doctors are warning musicians who play wind instruments of a potentially deadly condition called "Bagpipe lung."

If not regularly cleaned, spit and saliva could stimulate the growth of dangerous mold and fungi inside a bagpipe (and other wind instruments). Regularly breathing in this mold or fungi could lead to a "disabling or fatal lung disease," doctors wrote in a case study published Monday in the medical journal Thorax.

Doctors at the University Hospital South Manchester in England looked at the case of a musician who died of a chronic inflammatory lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a disease where the lungs become inflamed due to inhaling dust, fungus, molds or chemicals. The man was eventually hospitalized, and doctors began to suspect that his passion for playing the bagpipe could be a potential trigger of his condition.

Samples were taken from inside his bagpipe and several different fungi were detected, including ones previously "implicated in the development of HP," according to the case study.

The doctors concluded that wind instrument players "need to be aware of the importance of regularly cleaning their instruments and of potential risks."

So with that, here's a handy video of how to clean and dry your bagpipe, just to be on the safe side.