Older people are at most risk for aspiration pneumonia, particularly those with a history of stroke, seizures, lung disease, dental problems or eating difficulties. The presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn also increase the risk of acquiring aspiration pneumonia, states Healthline.
Aspiration pneumonia occurs when foreign substances, such as food, saliva or vomit, are pulled into the lungs or airways, explains MedlinePlus. Its symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath fatigue, fever and dysphagia. Individuals with aspiration pneumonia may also exhibit wheezing, excessive sweating and a bluish discoloration of the skin.
Chronic diseases, such as asthma, heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also predispose a person to aspiration pneumonia, states Mayo Clinic. Individuals with a suppressed or weakened immune system are more likely to develop the disease. Smoking likewise increases the risk of pneumonia.
Conditions that reduce a person’s consciousness or weaken the gag reflex are also associated with the development of aspiration pneumonia. Individuals who are under general anaesthesia are at an increased risk of acquiring the disease as well. It is also most likely to develop in individuals who are in a coma, explains MedlinePlus.
People with aspiration pneumonia commonly receive antibiotics, notes MedlinePlus. Depending on the severity of the disease, hospitalisation may be required. A ventilator may also be needed to help individuals who experience breathing difficulties.