Why AIIMS Advisory on momos shouldn't be taken lightly | Read this blog before you eat momos next |

Shikha Batra
1 to 3 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Jul 24, 2022

Why AIIMS Advisory on momos shouldnt be taken lightly Read this blog before you eat momos next

Who had ever imagined if a popular Indian street food item- ‘Momo’ relished by children, youth and older generations alike would cost a man his life. In a shocking incident, a man in his early 50s who was in an intoxicated state was brought dead to AIIMS from south-Delhi as per the AIIMS report. The report further mentioned that he was eating at a shop when he suddenly collapsed on the ground. The post-moterm revealed that the cause of death was momo getting stuck in the opening of the windpipe. An examination of the CT scan done during the post mortem identified that something was stuck at the beginning of his upper trachea. The team of doctors concluded that the consumption of the popular junk food item- momos caused him suffocation leading to neurogenic cardiac arrest thereby leading to his death. 

A momo is a bitesize dumpling which contains different fillings like meat, vegetables, paneer, etc. wrapped in a dough. Momo can be steamed, fried or steam-fried. They are relished with a variety of dips and sauces. But who thought that its slippery surface and improper chewing can become the cause of death. The experts at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi said, “Momos are a popular street food. They have a slippery and soft surface, so swallowing it without proper chewing may cause choking and even death.”

The findings of this rare case have been published in the Journal of Forensic Imaging  in its latest edition and it reads- “Choking as a condition where there is an obstruction in the airway at any place between pharynx and bifurcation of trachea. The choking is caused by internal and external blockage.” When a person eats anything that is too large to enter the oesophagus, and when it accidentally moves into the trachea, causing blockage in the posterior hypopharynx (the bottom part of the tube that leads to the food pipe and the windpipe), resulting in the blockage of the respiratory tract. As explained by Tehsin A Petiwala, consultant gastroenterologist, endoscopist, and hepatologist, Masina Hospital, “That is when, instead of going to the food pipe, as in normal circumstances, the food accidentally goes into the windpipe.”


The report further read, sudden unexpected deaths due to blockage at the airway by a large bolus of food are “not very common”. 0.66 fatalities per 1,00,000 of the general population  every year is the reported incidence of asphyxia by food.

The important questions which now arise are - 

Can this suffocation occur only while eating momos?

To this doctors have cautioned it can happen while eating any food such as popcorn, nuts, candies, chewing gum etc.  Dr. Petiwala said “Usually, if a minute fragment of food goes into the windpipe, cough reflex is initiated immediately and the particle is thrown out.”  Dr. Petiwala further added, “Choking is usually seen in infants and children who have a tendency to not chew the food properly or put objects into the mouth accidentally. Talking or laughing while eating or not chewing properly can also lead to choking. This incident of death of the man from eating momos is one-of-a-kind.”

What are you supposed to do whenever such a choking incident happens?

“Whenever  a choking incident occurs, attendees should immediately perform the abdominal thrusts also known as the Heimlich maneuver which is a first-aid procedure in which sudden sharp pressure is applied to the abdomen between the navel and the ribs to remove blockages in a person’s trachea. This is done until the food comes out of the mouth,” according to Dr Abhishek Yadav, additional professor of the forensic department, AIIMS. 

When someone does abdominal thrusts, it forces a sudden burst of air upward through the trachea from the diaphragm, dislodging a foreign object or food bolus and sending it flying up into (or even out of) the mouth. So, it is important to get trained in both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver which are the standard procedures if someone is choking.

Is Choking an Emergency?

When an object or food bolus gets into the trachea( windpipe) and it completely blocks the airway, it might block the airflow into and out of the lungs and the brain is deprived of oxygen. In such a state, choking can become a life-threatening emergency.

What are the signs that a child might be choking and needs help right away?

Signs of choking which indicate that a child might need help right away include:

If a child -

  • Cannot breathe

  • Is gasping or wheezing

  • Cannot talk, cry or make noise

  • Turns blue

  • Grabs at his or her throat and waves arms

  • Appears to be panicked

  • Becomes limp or unconscious

In such a situation, call an ambulance immediately, if you are not trained to give abdominal thrusts.

What can be done to prevent choking?

All children are at risk of choking, especially those who are younger than three years as they have smaller airways that are easily blocked. Also because younger children don’t have an experience in chewing and straightway gulp a large bolus of food leading to obstruction of airway. 

To help prevent the incidence of choking, following steps can be taken:

  • Foods that pose choking risks can be avoided such as hot momos, hot dogs, grapes, nuts, raisins, candies,spoonfuls of peanut butter, chunks of meat, and/or popcorn, etc. These food items are smaller in size and shape similar to a child's airway.

  • During mealtimes, ensure to serve a child food in small bites by cutting them into pieces. 

  • Try serving them cooked vegetables, instead of raw ones.

  • Teach them to sit straight at a place while having meals and not move around.

  • Teach them to not talk or laugh with food in their mouths.

  • Make sure to check the floor often for any objects that can pose a choking hazard such as coins, beads, deflated balloons, batteries, small toy parts, lids of small bottles, tablets etc.

  • While choosing their toys make sure these are safe as well as age-appropriate as some toys have small parts that can cause choking.

  • Try getting trained in giving first-aid procedures like CPR and Heimlich maneuver, etc.

The bizarre incident of a popular street food- momo choking a man, was one-of-a-kind. However, it can happen with anyone irrespective of their age. Therefore, it is important for us to learn lessons from this incident and try to avoid those mistakes with ourselves as well as our children.

Hope you will find this blog useful. Please share with family and friends and add value to this blog with your valuable feedback and comments.

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