Bagpipe (or trumpet!) Lung

A school year looming brings with it a fresh start, and a resolution to keep instruments clean and hygienic.  If you need any further confirmation of the importance of keeping your instrument clean, please read on!…

Back in August 2016, the BBC and numerous other news agencies were reporting on a journal article written by doctors at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital.  They described a rare but fatal case of what they described as “bagpipe lung” in a 61-year-old patient.  The deceased man is thought to have developed a bad reaction to mould and fungi lurking inside the moist interior of his bagpipes.

The patient had been struggling with respiratory problems over a number of years, during which time doctors had ruled out all possible environmental causes that they could think of.  On a hunch, the doctors sent away the pipes for testing only to reveal that the instrument was riddled with damp-loving mould and fungi – the types that the doctors know can cause serious lung problems.

Sadly, the damage that had already occurred to the man’s lungs was irreversible.  His condition deteriorated and he tragically died some weeks later.

There have also been a number of other documented cases of this in the UK with Saxophone, Trombone and Trumpet players.  Fortunately in these cases, the cause was identified early enough for the patients to recover.

So what steps do we need to take to prevent the build of yeast and other harmful pathogens in our trumpets?

Fortunately the answer to this is nowhere near as complicated as the problems faced by this patient or his doctors.  Regular cleaning.  Whether an instrument is being used regularly or not, the damp environment is a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of nasties.

Woodwind instruments where the instrument can be easily swabbed after every playing to remove moisture are pretty straightforward to keep in a hygienic state.  Brass on the other hand is not so easily attended on a daily basis, so it is important that we flush them out and clean them thoroughly when we do make the time.  I generally suggest to students that this is done monthly.

Taking the instrument apart and soaking it in a hot bath with a mild detergent is generally the best starting point to help to loosen dirt and grime.  Brass Soak from Edgware by BBICO is absolutely superb and is featured in a full review here if you want to check it out.

I would then suggest a good quality brush pull-though and then a sponge pull-through to drag out the offending matter!  Finally a rinse through with hot (but not boiling) water should leave your trumpet clean.

The mouthpiece itself often gets overlooked but is the easiest to keep clean on a daily basis. A good all-natural sanitiser spray such is this one pictured again from Edgware is a ‘must’ for daily cleaning of brass instruments. It is alcohol free and kills 99.9999% of all germs in 60 seconds.

It is also worth making sure that you have a good quality mouthpiece brush. Many a mouthpiece has been damaged by the jagged and twisted wire. You will not have that problem with the one pictured above: Edgware’s cleaning brush is coated along the stem to make sure that this does not happen.

Please visit the Edgware by BBICO website to see the full range of great cleaning and maintenance products.


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