02 June 2011

Indian kids eat live fish

Campaigners in India have demanded that children under 14 be banned from swallowing live fish in a traditional treatment for asthma administered at a festival every year in June.


Campaigners in India have demanded that children under 14 be banned from swallowing live fish in a traditional treatment for asthma administered at a festival every year in June.

Hundreds of thousands of sufferers gather annually in Hyderabad in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to gulp down small live fish and a special herb paste.

The Goud family, which says it received the medicine recipe from a Hindu saint in 1845, treats people from across India for free during a two-day period determined by astrologers and the onset of the monsoon.

The wriggling five-centimetre (two-inch) fish, which the family says clear the throat on their way down, will be dispensed on 8 and 9 June 2011.

Violation of human rights

Child rights group Balala Hakkula Sangham has lobbied the state's Human Rights Commission to stop children under 14 from taking the medicine as it is "unscientific" and a violation of human rights.

"The process of giving the medicine is unhygienic as the person gives it to lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of people without washing their hands," added the petition seeking a ban.

Andhra Pradesh's Human Rights Commission ordered a report into the complaints.

The Goud family claims "fish medicine" has been proven to cure asthma and other respiratory problems, but it declines to reveal the secret herb formula.

Ages old practice

"It has been the practice of the Goud Family for the past 166 years to offer this medicine free of cost to those who need it," Bathini Harinath Goud, head of the family, said ahead of the event.

He said that children were not at risk and that people who complained were in the pay of pharmaceutical firms that produce mainstream asthma drugs.

"These companies are paying money to rake up the issue as they are worried about the fish medicine affecting their business interests since what we administer is a permanent cure for asthma," he said.

Goud said that last year 400,000 people swallowed live fishes handed out by 200 family members.

The Indian government arranges special trains for the "fish medicine" festival and extra police are on duty to control crowds.

After digesting the treatment, patients are told to go on a strict diet of specific food for 45 days.

(Sapa, June 2011)

Read more:

 Why does flu trigger asthma?

Asthma treatment


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules