Warning against vinegar remedy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 October, 2002, 12:00am

The traditional Chinese remedy of drinking vinegar to remove fish bones stuck in the throat could cause acid burns, the latest issue of the Hong Kong Medical Journal warned yesterday.

The revelation came after a 39-year-old woman was sent to Northern District Hospital suffering sharp pains after she drank a tablespoon of white vinegar to 'soften' a piece of crab shell stuck in her throat, according to a case report by Dr Chung Chin-hung.

Medical findings showed the pain was caused by inflammation of the pharynx and second-degree caustic burns caused by the vinegar, Dr Chung said. It was unclear when the case happened.

He said the case confirmed vinegar could ulcerate the throat.

'Although this weak acid can cause corrosive and ulcerative injury to the upper digestive tract, it has rarely been reported in medical literature,' he wrote.

'The folklore application of [using] vinegar to [dislodge] a foreign body in the throat should be strongly discouraged.'

Dr Chung said Hong Kong people were fond of seafood and many still used traditional practices to remove bones or shells stuck in the throat.

Household vinegar contains four to five per cent acetic acid.