A POSTMAN lived with a tiny traffic cone lodged in his lung for 40 years after inhaling it as a child.

Paul Baxter, who works at the Royal Mail Delivery Office in Blackburn, inhaled the Playmobil cone which was part of a police traffic set he received as a seventh birthday present.

The dad-of-two was referred to hospital after complaining of a persistent cough with doctors fearing he had cancer after a dark mass was found on his chest.

It was on the operating table at Royal Preston Hospital that doctors discovered the cone which the 50-year-old cannot remember inhaling.

He said: "Kids eat things and I obviously chewed on my toys. But I can't even remember swallowing it to be honest.

"I have been told that I must have inhaled it for it to go into my windpipe.

"If I had swallowed it, it would have gone into my stomach and out the other end."

Paul was referred to Royal Preston Hospital for a bronchoscopy - where doctors sent a camera into his lungs - to see if they could find what was causing the niggling cough.

Paul, who lives Croston with his wife Helen, 46, said: "Doctors said they could see something orange down my throat but didn't know what it was.

"The operation was under local anesthetic and when they removed the cone in the theatre it was hilarious, everyone in the room just laughed.

"It has come out in perfect working order, you can even still see the markings."

There was a chance for the toy to find the light of day when Paul was admitted to hospital with a bout of pneumonia more than 20 years ago, but it was never spotted.

And again in 2004 when Paul had a full body MRI scan when he had a brain abscess.

Paul said: "When I was 18 I had pneumonia and I was in hospital for two weeks and even then doctors never picked it up on the x-rays that were taken."

The doctor presented the cone to Paul and he's now kept it as a souvenir of his ordeal.

He said: "I thought it was just a normal chest infection. I wasn't aware of how serious it could have been."

Experts said it's likely he went symptomless for so long because of how young he was when he ingested the toy, suggesting that as he grew older, his airways adapted around the foreign object.

Dr Mohammed Munavvar, has been a doctor for 30 years, was the man who discovered the tiny toy.

He said: "I have never come across something quite this extraordinary before. There have been one or two other things but nothing quite like this."

At first, Dr Munavvar feared the worst, with Paul being a former smoker and having been coughing up yellow mucus for months.

"There was concern about something more serious underlying the problem Paul was experiencing," Dr Munavvar said.

"It was honestly a full on surprise when I saw what the blockage actually was."

The operation took place in 2015 but came to light recently when it was written about in a BMJ Case Reports medical journal.