If food particles make their way into the lungs after a person has food caught in his windpipe, this can lead to infection and potential pneumonia, explains The Huffington Post. It is possible for food to make its way into a person's lungs even after the person has cleared most of the food that entered the trachea.
When food is caught in a person's windpipe, the natural reaction is to start coughing, in hopes that coughing dislodges the food and returns it to the esophagus, explains The Huffington Post. This generally happens when a person mistakenly inhales food by relaxing his throat and mouth muscles.
When food enters the windpipe, the body immediately responds by closing the voice box so no additional food can enter into the trachea, says The Huffington Post. Sometimes, coughing does not work, and it causes the food to become lodged in the windpipe, which causes the person to choke. Taking small sips of water can help ease the process of getting the food back up.
Elderly people are more susceptible to aspiration because their muscles weaken over time, says The Huffington Post. A person who has undergone throat surgery or has suffered from certain types of nerve impairment may also find it difficult to properly swallow food.