Kids do the darndest things. With their tongues. Consider the following three tales of youthful hijinks gone horribly wrong and pass them around the water cooler gang.
- He didn’t really lick a frozen metal pole, did he?
Oh yes, he did. “He” in this chilling account was an 11-year-old lad from Illinois named Spencer Cline. I believe it was my father (The Scientist) who advised me not to touch my warm tongue to a frozen metal pole outside one winter. He predicted that my tongue would stick to the pole and not let go, no matter how hard I tucked. It would be terribly painful, he said, matter-of-factly.
The very scene my father had conjured up in my mind was portrayed in the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” where one character named Flick (played by Scott Schwartz) licked an icy flagpole on a dare – and his tongue got stuck. Hilarity ensued.
Young Cline had recently watched the fabled holiday film. On November 27, 2018, while out sledding near his home in Sandwich, after one of the region’s heaviest snowfalls on record, he decided to see for himself what would happen if he licked a frigid metal fence pole – just out of curiosity.
The adventurous boy learned immediately that life was imitating art:
“I tried to pull it back. It just stuck on there.”
But Cline kept his head about him and resisted yanking on his tongue:
“I was trying to get it off, but I wasn’t pulling. I was being gentle and freaking out. Some of my taste buds came off on the pole.”
Lucky for Cline that his pal Cole Leeper was there to help.
After he understood that his friend was truly panicking and not joking around, Leeper stopped at a neighbor’s house and asked the woman there for some warm water to release Cline’s tongue. When the woman said she had no hot water, Leeper responded, “Well, you’re going to have to call an ambulance then.”
After a time, an ambulance was called. By the time the paramedics arrived on the wintry scene, Cline had succeeded in freeing his tongue from captive Science – so, technically, no doctors were actually involved in this case. The local deputy fire chief Nathan King said that this was the first time his department had ever responded to this type of emergency call and “Every Crew member there was reminded of the movie and laughed at that scene.”
Cline was fortunate to suffer no permanent injury from his mishap which left a lasting impression:
“It hurt very badly.”
The preteen added:
“I kind of felt like I was missing half my tongue.”
- He didn’t really get his tongue stuck in a juice bottle, did he?
Right again. As reported in the December 2019 issue of EJA (the European Journal of Anesthesiology), a 7-year-old German boy wanted to suck out the last yummy drops from a round glass juice bottle but discovered he couldn’t extract his extended tongue from the vacuum he had created inside the container.
The child’s mother tried unsuccessfully to disengage the bottle – which would shatter into dangerous shards if handled too roughly – by pulling and twisting it. Then, she delivered her son to the ER where a pediatric surgeon also failed to pull the bottle loose.
Doctors from the hospital’s anesthesia department administered a light sedative to calm the upset youngster before inserting a cannula (thin tube) between his tongue and the bottle’s neck. Their idea to release some of the vacuum by allowing air to flow into the mouth was a good one – but didn’t work either.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Christoph Eich then had the bright idea to rig something up that would work like a positive-pressure wine cork extractor that pumps air through a cork via a thin needle-like tube. Injecting air into the bottle, he reasoned, would free the stuck tongue without cutting the bottle or giving the boy general anesthesia.
Doctors attached the cannula to some IV tubing and a 20-milliliter (0.7-ounce) empty syringe. After only a few pumps of air, the boy’s tongue squeezed out of the bottleneck. It was swollen and “lividly discolored” – the tissues near the front had blackened – from capillary damage.
After demonstrating the effectiveness of his solution, which had “proved to be a simple, effective and safe technique for releasing a tongue entrapped in a bottle,” Eich said in a statement:
“We would suggest trying this method before more invasive procedures under general anesthesia are considered.”
- He didn’t really get his tongue stuck in a bottle lid, did he?
Bingo! You’re 3 for 3. In July 2019, British 6-year-old Riley Wooff from Carnforth was sitting in the back of the family car, drinking from a pink-capped sippy cup, when he started to panic. Somehow, he had managed to worm a good portion of his tongue through the narrow screwtop opening on the container.
The boy’s mother Claire Wooff (33) pulled the car over but wasn’t able to liberate her son’s tongue so she headed straight for a hospital. Surgeons at Lancaster Royal Infirmary sedated Riley and kept him overnight before carefully removed the lid from the lad’s swollen tongue.
Riley experienced a temporary speech impediment after the ordeal. Ms. Wooff confided:
“That was when it became frightening. Doctors said when they took the lid off there was a risk his airways could have closed and they were worried about the build-up of blood in his tongue.”
Calling the incident “the scariest day of our lives,” the distraught mom visited the supermarket which to recall the bottle sold to her family. Store management said:
“We are investigating this isolated incident with our supplier and wish Riley a speedy recovery.”
Riley has returned to normal – mostly. He suffered from nightmares after his sippy cup-inflicted torture.
Let these three cautionary tales be a lesson to all of you tongue-happy lickers out there: resist the temptation to stick it where it shouldn’t ought to go. (Pass it on.)