Aspiration pneumonia (inflammation lung infection) risk factors include dementia and dehydration. Aspiration pneumonia is inflammation in the lungs, typically caused by an infection picked up from breathing in foreign matter – it is also known as anaerobic pneumonia.
One study conducted in Japan looked at risk factors that contribute to the onset of aspiration pneumonia because, even though it is a leading cause of death among ageing populations, there is still much information not fully investigated or understood about the condition.
Participants were split into groups based on episodes of aspiration pneumonia. Based on analysis, the researchers were able to develop a list of risk factors that increase the odds of aspiration pneumonia, including:
- Sputum suctioning
- Daily oxygen therapy
- Feeding support dependency
- Urinary catheterization
- Deterioration of swallowing over the span of three months
Aspiration pneumonia causes
Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of aspiration pneumonia. When we are healthy, the immune system fights off bacteria and viruses to keep us healthy, but if the germs are too strong they can overpower the immune system and contribute to illness.
Normally, air is the only substance that goes into our lungs, so when food, drinks, vomitus or saliva are inhaled into the lungs it leads to aspiration pneumonia. The odds of developing aspiration pneumonia are higher in someone who has a problem with their gag reflex, which can occur in individuals with brain injuries or who have dysphagia.
Other causes of aspiration pneumonia include:
- Esophageal disorders
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Comatose state
- Reduced levels of alertness
- Swallowing problems
- Dental problems that interfere with chewing or swallowing
Related: Is pneumonia contagious?
Aspiration pneumonia symptoms
Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia are similar to other forms of pneumonia and include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Discoloration of the skin – usually blue
- Cough accompanied by sputum, blood or mucus
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Excessive sweating
Diagnosis and treatment of aspiration pneumonia
Your doctor will run a variety of tests to determine a diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia. These tests include:
- Sputum culture
- Complete blood count
- Arterial blood gas test
- CT scans of the chest
- Swallowing tests
- Blood culture
- Chest x-ray
Treatment for aspiration pneumonia depends on the severity of the condition. If aspiration is severe, treatment may need to take place in a hospital setting, otherwise antibiotics can be prescribed and taken while resting at home.
Prevention of aspiration pneumonia is possible by following these helpful tips:
- Avoid excessive drinking, which can lead to aspiration.
- Recognize the signs of aspiration.
- Receive proper dental care.
- Manage conditions that increase your risk for aspiration pneumonia, such as lung infections, seizures, stroke, swallowing dysfunction and neurological diseases.