Woman says dog ‘sniffed’ sepsis after she suffered third-degree burns


Levi and Chico, and right, the damage to her scalp (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

A woman believes her dog saved her life by ‘sniffing out’ sepsis after she reacted badly to hair dye and suffered third-degree burns.

Levi Carter, 22, booked herself into a hair salon in February 2018 to get her hair professionally bleached. 

Within minutes of the peroxide bleach being applied, she claims her scalp started to burn and it was ‘smoking’ – before the stylist quickly washed it off. 

That evening, Levi’s head began to bleed and she was referred to Nottingham Hospital’s burns unit where she was treated for third-degree burns.

The burns became more painful and Levi returned to the hospital after she believed her Yorkshire terrier – called Chico – ‘sensed’ an infection.

The pooch wouldn’t leave her scalp alone and refused to settle – sniffing around the wounds on her head.

The support worker was then diagnosed with sepsis and was treated just in time – however she has been left with permanent bald spots nearly three years later.

Levi, from Lincolnshire, is hoping to warn others around the importance of doing a patch test before using hair dye.

The damage to Levi’s scalp caused by bleach from a dye treatment (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

Levi said: ‘The whole thing has been incredibly traumatic. 

‘I’ve been left with huge bald patches and will need surgery to try and cover them.

‘I only went back into the hospital because my dog wouldn’t leave me alone – he must have smelt the infection.

‘If I left it any longer then who knows what would have happened – I might not be here. Chico saved my life.’

Levi, who works as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, would regularly dye her hair at home. 

When she wanted a dramatic change from brunette to blonde, Levi booked herself in at the salon.

After the stylist had applied the peroxide hair bleach all over her head, Levi felt a ‘burning sensation’ and instantly knew something wasn’t right.

Even after the hairdresser washed the bleach off, hydroxide remained (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

She said: ‘It was really painful and my head actually started smoking.

‘We went straight to the sinks and ran my head under a cold tap for about 20 minutes.
 
‘They felt really bad and offered to dye a different colour and I ended up leaving with it bright red.’

The cut and colour cost Levi £40 – the salon knocked the price down from the original £60.

Levi was left with a massive bald patch (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

That evening she noticed her head starting to bleed so she went to Nottingham Hospital where she was treated for third-degree burns on her scalp. 

It turned out there was still peroxide on Levi’s scalp which burned her head.

Levi needs to have surgery to treat the bald patch (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

Over the next four weeks, the burns on Levi’s head continued to become more painful.

She was alerted to the issue by her pet pooch Chico who she believes could ‘smell’ an infection developing. 

When Levi noticed the smell herself, she went back to hospital where she was admitted and treated for the life-threatening infection sepsis.

The doctors said they caught it before it got too serious and Levi was kept on a drip for three days.

Although Levi’s burns began to heal, the damage to her hair follicles was so severe she has been left with several bald patches.

In August 2019, Levi underwent a scalp reduction surgery to stretch the skin on her head and cover the missing hair.

Unfortunately, the operation didn’t take and she needs to undergo more surgery to try and repair the bald spots.

She said: ‘It’s left me incredibly self-conscious and I struggled for a long time.

‘I haven’t been able to go into a hairdressers again so I dye my hair at home.

Little Chico ‘smelled’ the sepsis infection, according to Levi (Picture: James Linsell-Clark/ SWNS)

‘I need more surgery and doctors are planning to inflate balloons under the skin on my scalp because the first operation didn’t work.

‘It should stretch it enough so they bring it together and hopefully close the bald spots.

‘It’s so important to do a patch test first because you have no idea how your skin is going to react. 

‘I wish I’d done that in the first place and maybe I wouldn’t have lost my hair.

‘I’m just thankful my dog made me act on it – otherwise who knows where I’d be and if I’d even be here today.’

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