Pneumonia is a condition where your lungs and large airways get infected and begin swelling. Aspiration Pneumonia is a complication that arises when you happen to breathe food, liquids, saliva or vomit. These reach your lungs through the airways and cause infection.
An aspiration pneumonia patient may appear someone with poor or no oral hygiene. The disease declares its presence with the signs like wet coughing after meal, bad breath and chest pain. Excessive sweating, blue discoloring of skin, fatigue, difficulty to breathe and trouble swallowing follow suit. Contact your Doctor if you or anyone of your loved ones shows these signs. Let the professional know if the person had inhaled liquids or food recently. This deserves utmost importance for children below 2 years of age or the elderly. Get urgent medical attention if you notice high fever along with these symptoms.
You are prone to aspiration pneumonia if you are above 80 years of age. As you grow old, you become inactive. You may even have trouble swallowing food. The following too may increase the chances of aspiration pneumonia:
- Muscle weakness due to stroke
- An ineffective immune system because of diabetes or any other disease
- Radiation or surgery of neck or head due to cancer
Diagnosis and treatment
People breathe food or liquids at times. But they seldom notice it. Your doctor may evaluate symptoms and try to understand your history of trouble swallowing. The expert may ask you more about the symptoms and ask when they began. The person may look into your mouth and into the throat. The professional then may listen to your breathing and heartbeat. You may also have to cough or speak before your doctor. You may also undergo the following screenings.
- Blood test: It helps the doctor determine if your white blood cell count is high. This indicates infection.
- You will have to swallow barium: It helps the doctor determine if you have trouble swallowing. The professional may watch you swallow different food items. You may be asked to swallow barium, a thick liquid. In the meantime, your health care provider may take x-rays of your esophagus, stomach and lungs.
- Sputum culture test: This helps the doctor determine the type of bacteria that caused pneumonia. You may have to cough mucus into a cup. The doctor may even suction mucus from your throat. Your healthcare provider may ask you to drink contrast liquid for a CT scan. Inform your doctor if you recently had any allergic response to contrast liquids.
Your doctor will determine the treatment strategy after evaluating your physical condition.
The first phase often starts with antibiotics. This helps destroy infections and prevent other complications. The expert, however, will have to wait for the test results. Certain bacteria are antibiotic-resistant.
If the symptoms are severe, the patient may need hospitalization. Someone experiencing difficulty to breathe may need a breathing machine. And the person having trouble swallowing may require assisted feeding. The doctor may also recommend dietary changes to minimize complications.
Prognosis for aspiration pneumonia may vary from person to person. It depends on the patient’s general health and how soon he/she received medical attention. The severity and extent of the symptoms too play a vital role. The thing inhaled and the type of infection too may influence the process of recovery.
Aspiration pneumonia is relatively fatal than its community-acquired variant. The unfortunate situation here is that people seek treatment at the advanced stage. Sufferers of the disease often visit a doctor and stay hospitalized for extended periods of time. Some may even end up in intensive care and then pass away.
Even with this grim prospect, majority of patients survive aspiration pneumonia. But the road to recovery is generally quite long.
Doctors generally keep a watch on the elderly or those with weak immune systems. Make sure that you follow the doctor’s advice. The symptoms may disappear earlier than expected. But don’t stop the antibiotics without your doctor’s permission.
Certain lifestyle changes may help you stay safe from aspiration pneumonia. Take good care of your mouth and quit smoking and alcohol.
Aspiration pneumonia is fatal. But early detection and treatment will help you recover and get back to normal.
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