Piece of supari puts young girl’s life at risk

X-ray of a young girl who developed a serious lung infection after inhaling a piece of supari. (Photo/Twitter/Dr. Mohamed Ismail)

Chewing areca nut or supari to freshen the breath is a widespread practice in Maldives, despite its adverse health effects.

The adverse health effects linked to chewing areca nut range from mild to severe such as oral and esophageal cancers. And sometimes, people accidently inhale areca nuts into their airways and lungs instead of swallowing it – which can lead to life threatening complications.

On Friday evening, Dr. Mohamed Ismail, a pulmonologist at the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), shared the case of a patient he recently treated with a serious case of lung infection with pleural effusion.

According to Mohamed, the patient, who he described as a young girl, had a serious lung infection with fluid in her chest cavity.

He, and fellow pulmonologists Dr. Mohamed Falih Ali and Dr. Mohamed Ali did a bronchoscopy to look at the lungs and air passages.

“…to our surprise, we found a small piece of supari blocking part of the Rt lung,” he said.

X-ray of a young girl who developed a serious lung infection after inhaling a piece of supari. (Photo/Twitter/Dr. Mohamed Ismail)

Mohamed said that upon inquiry, the patient told them she was a habitual eater of supari.

The team successfully removed the block.


Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food or liquid is breathed into the airways or lungs, instead of being swallowed – resulting in inflammation) and infection of the lungs or large airways.

Left untreated, aspiration pneumonia can be dangerous, resulting in things like lung abscesses or lung scarring, or even death.

Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, wheezing, breath odor, excessive sweating, problems swallowing, and confusion.

The causes include eating too fast, and talking and laughing while eating.

A flap of tissue called the epiglottis sits over the top of the main airway (trachea), which blocks food and drink from going down into the trachea when one swallows. But in some cases – such as talking while eating, food or drink can enter the trachea causing aspiration.