Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs and airways to the lungs from breathing in foreign material. Aspiration pneumonia develops from inhaling food, vomit, liquids, or saliva into the lungs. This may occur when someone has difficulty swallowing and has watery eyes or coughing while consuming food or fluids. 

Signs and Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include, but are not limited to:

  • Chest pain,
  • Cough,
  • Fatigue,
  • Nausea,
  • Fever,
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, and
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin caused by lack of oxygen (e.g., mouth, nail beds, finger tips).

Your role if signs or symptoms are noted:

Medical staff should be notified immediately and reporting and documentation rules for your program followed. Be sure to report any signs of aspiration pneumonia immediately to your supervisor.

Preventing aspiration pneumonia:

  • Correct position while eating and sleeping;
  • Correct diet texture and fluid consistency to meet the person’s needs;
  • Good hand washing and respiratory hygiene;
  • Not attempting to assist with meal if sedated;
  • Up-to-date vaccinations and seasonal flu shots; and
  • Healthy diet and adequate fluids.

People at risk for aspiration pneumonia include, but are not limited to, those who:

  • Are less alert due to medicines or illnesses;
  • Have a disorder of the esophagus (the tube that moves food from the mouth to the stomach);
  • Have problems with swallowing;
  • Have poor gag reflex;
  • Have a Gastrostomy Tube (G-Tube);
  • Vomit frequently;
  • Are older