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Aspiration Pneumonia, Ambulatory Care

Aspiration pneumonia

is a lung infection that develops after you aspirate (inhale) food, liquid, or vomit into your lungs. If you are not able to cough up the aspirated material, bacteria can grow in your lungs and cause an infection.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Cough, which may or may not bring up mucus
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or noisy breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion, unclear thinking, or changes in alertness
  • Voice changes such as gurgling and hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • More trouble breathing or your breathing seems faster than normal

Treatment for aspiration pneumonia

includes medicines to treat the bacterial infection. You may also receive steroid medicine to open your air passages so you can breathe easier. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your healthcare provider tells you to stop. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Prevent and manage aspiration pneumonia:

  • Go to speech therapy as directed. A speech therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles you use to swallow. You may also need to see a dietitian or occupational therapist.
  • Sit up while you eat. Do not eat while you are lying flat on your back. If you eat in bed, keep the head of your bed elevated to at least a 45° angle. Take small bites, eat slowly, and swallow with your chin down.
  • Eat thickened foods and drinks. A dietitian can teach you how to thicken your food so you have less trouble swallowing. Instead of a cup, drink liquids through a straw or sip them from a spoon.
  • Care for your teeth and mouth. Mouth care can help kill harmful bacteria in your mouth so you do not inhale them. While you are sitting up, brush your teeth, tongue, and gums for 2 minutes daily after breakfast and again after dinner. Dentures should be removed and cleaned with an electric toothbrush and water after breakfast and dinner. Soak dentures overnight in a cleaning solution.
  • Avoid or use less sedative medicines. These medicines increase the risk of aspiration because they dry out your mouth and make you drowsy. Use fewer antihistamine medicines because they also make your mouth dry.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for aspiration pneumonia. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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