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Aspiration Pneumonia Causes & Risks


Foods and liquids enter your mouth and travel down the esophagus into the stomach. Air enters your mouth or nose and goes down your airway (trachea) into your lungs. Lungs are only meant to be exposed to air. But foods, liquids, or vomited stomach contents may accidentally get into the airway and travel down to the lungs. This is called aspiration.

Food Inhaled into Lung

lung aspiration food
Food has entered alveoli of lung (air sacs), are causing build up of green mucus, and decrease the flow of oxygen—blue arrows.
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Generally, most people can cough to prevent foreign substances from being inhaled into the lungs. However, some people may not be able to protect their lungs with a good cough. This may happen when they are unconscious or if they have trouble swallowing foods or liquids. Once the foreign substances get into the lungs, they may cause an infection known as aspiration pneumonia. This is a potentially serious condition that requires care from your doctor.

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your chances of developing aspiration pneumonia. In general, elderly people with a history of lung disease or a stroke, a need for feeding assistance, or poor dentition are at highest risk. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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