Foreign objects or liquids that enter the lungs can cause a serious inflammatory condition called aspiration pneumonia. Foreign material can be anything from food and drink to vomit or stomach acid. A number of different symptoms of aspiration pneumonia can occur, including chest pain, a bluish tinge to the skin, fever, shortness of breath, wheezing, and cough. The cough may be accompanied by smelly or green-colored sputum, and the cough also may produce blood or pus. A patient exhibiting symptoms of aspiration pneumonia may also have bad breath, may not be able to comfortably swallow and may begin to sweat to an excessive degree.
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia may require a trip to the doctor or a hospital emergency room. Patients who suffer from chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, fever, or chills should seek medical attention right away. A doctor will perform an examination, looking for abnormal lung sounds such as crackling, and the exam will also note the patient’s heart rate and oxygen level. A doctor also may order some tests that will determine how well a patient can swallow, plus a chest X-ray, bronchoscopy, sputum and blood cultures, a CT scan and a measurement of arterial blood gas.
There are different types of aspiration pneumonia. A patient who aspirates stomach acid will have chemical pneumonia. A patient who aspirates bacteria from the throat or mouth areas will develop bacterial pneumonia. The third type, exogenous lipoid pneumonia, is much less common and stems from oil aspiration. Furthermore, non-bacterial pneumonia can develop into bacterial pneumonia.
Not every patient who shows symptoms of aspiration pneumonia will need to be admitted to the hospital. The decision to admit a patient will depend on the individual and the severity of the condition. The patient’s recovery will depend on several factors, including how much damage has been done to the lungs.
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia may appear without a recognizable precipitating event. Factors that pose a risk of contracting the disease include conditions that may lead to a state of unconsciousness, such as stroke, alcohol and drug use, seizure, and head injury. An increased risk of aspiration pneumonia is present for patients suffering from reflux, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease.