Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is an infection that develops after foreign items are accidentally inhaled into the lungs. This is a potentially serious condition that requires care from a doctor.
Only air should enter the airways of the lungs. Sometimes foods, liquids, or vomited stomach contents may accidentally get into these airways. Inhaling can move these substances further into the lungs. This is called aspiration. Once the substances are in the lungs, it will cause an irritation and swelling in the lungs. This creates an opportunity for an infection to develop.
Most people can prevent aspiration by creating a strong cough. However, some people may have impaired coughing ability. This may happen in people who are unconscious, have brain injuries, or have trouble swallowing foods or liquids.
Factors that may increase the chance of aspiration pneumonia:
Decreased level of consciousness due to alcohol intake,
stroke, or other conditions
Aspiration pneumonitis and pneumonia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/pneumonia/aspiration-pneumonitis-and-pneumonia. Updated March 2017. Accessed February 16, 2018.
Reza Shariatzadeh M, Huang JQ, Marrie TJ. Differences in the features of aspiration pneumonia according to site of acquisition: Community or continuing care facility. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54(2):296-302.
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