Prevention is better than cure. However, how can we prevent something without knowing what it exactly is about? So, let’s discuss what is aspiration pneumonia, the symptoms associated with this and how to prevent it in the first place.
What Is Aspiration Pneumonia?
Aspiration Pneumonia a type of lung infection. It is a complication caused by pulmonary aspiration. When you inhale food, stomach acid, or saliva into your lungs, it is called pulmonary aspiration.
All of these may contain a variety of bacteria that may be carried into your lungs. Pneumonia may develop when your lungs fail to clear up by themselves. It most often is seen in old people.
Causes of Aspiration Pneumonia
These may cause aspiration pneumonia:
- Neurological disorders/ altered mental status
- Throat cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Excessive ingestion of alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs
- Weak immune system
- Oesophageal disorders
- Dental problems that have made chewing and swallowing difficult
- Sedatives/ Anaesthesia
Other reasons for aspiration pneumonia to develop include residing in an institutional setting, prolonged hospitalization, diminished cough reflex, gastric tube feeding, smoking, antibiotic therapy, obstruction of airways and damaged lung tissues.
How Does Aspiration Pneumonia Present Itself?
The most common symptoms include fever and cough. Other symptoms are:
- Chest pain
- Breath shortness/ Wheezing
- Skin discoloration (Blue)
- Severe cough with blood/ sputum/ foul odor
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Bad/ stinky breath
- Excessive sweating
Please rush to the doctor if you see any of the above symptoms accompanied by a lingering fever over102°F. Critical and instant care is very important especially for children under 2 years and senior citizens above 65 years in case you notice any symptoms of aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia often has a rapid onset.
It has been estimated that 10% of those who have been hospitalized for pneumonia are due to aspiration.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Aspiration Pneumonia?
Once you go to the doctor with your symptoms, he may ask for a chest X-ray. Physical examinations of altered breathing are also suggestive of aspiration pneumonia. Radiology findings are also used to diagnose aspiration pneumonia.
Prevention Of Aspiration Pneumonia
Aspiration pneumonia is common amongst older folks. However, we can prevent/ reduce the possibility of getting this infection by following some simple methods:
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Regular visits to the dentist for check-ups and instant rectification of dental issues are recommended.
- Using antimicrobials will reduce the bacteria in the mouth and as a result, reduce the possibility of aspiration pneumonia.
- Avoid drinking alcohol excessively. Also, avoid consuming illegal drugs.
- Take prescription drugs as per doctor’s orders and avoid overdosing on them/ taking in more than necessary.
- Practice caution when taking drugs that make you sleepy/ drowsy. If you feel these medicines are being diverted to your lungs, go to the doctor immediately.
- Take a licensed speech therapist’s assistance to work on your swallowing techniques and strengthening your throat muscles. Training the various parts that are involved in swallowing including the tongue and lips may reduce the instance of aspiration pneumonia.
- You may need to change your diet to something that is more easily swallowed.
- Folate deficiency can lead to mouth sores and swallowing problems. Hence, correction of folate deficiency must be undertaken at once.
- Anesthesia can suppress protective reflexes such as gag reflex. Stomach particles can enter the lungs easily in such cases. These conditions have to be identified before any surgical procedures. Patients are recommended to observe fasting before any surgical procedure.
Aspiration pneumonia complications can lead to the following serious issues:
- Lobar pneumonia: Acute pneumonia involving one or more lobes of the lungs
- Bronchopneumonia: Infection in the alveoli causing mild to severe breathing problems
- Lung abscess: A type of liquefaction necrosis of lung tissue and formation of cavities
- Empyema: Pus collecting in the space between the lungs and the inner surface of the chest wall
How Is Aspiration Pneumonia Treated?
Mainly, antibiotics are given to remove bacteria causing the infection. Since different bacteria cause infection, broad-spectrum antibiotics are prescribed to cover all the different types of bacteria.
Typically, antibiotics are given for a duration of 5 to 7 days. In case of accumulation of fluid in the lungs, draining the same may aid in healing.