Aspiration pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling large amounts of foreign material, such as food, liquid, vomit, or mucus. This can happen when a person has become weakened by an illness such as a seizure or stroke that affects his or her ability to swallow.
Pneumonia can make it hard to breathe. This can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets into the bloodstream. This form of pneumonia is more common in people whose immune systems are weakened by disease or medicines. People who have aspiration pneumonia are usually treated with antibiotics in a hospital to prevent or treat an infection.
What is aspiration pneumonia in children?
Aspiration pneumonia is an inflammation of your child’s lungs. It may have happened after your child breathed in (aspirated) a foreign substance. This could be a substance such as food, liquid, vomit, or mucus.
Aspiration may have happened because your child has a health problem that makes it hard to swallow normally.
Pneumonia makes it hard for your child to breathe. Your child may get medicines to help him or her breathe. Or your child may need oxygen.
Your child may get fluids and medicines through a tube in a vein (IV).
What are the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in children?
Your child’s symptoms may include:
- Fever, cough, or trouble breathing.
- Chest pain from coughing.
Aspiration pneumonia: When to call
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have severe trouble breathing.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have a new or higher fever.
- You have new or worse trouble breathing.
- You cough up blood.
- You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.
- You are coughing more deeply or more often.
How can you care for your child who has aspiration pneumonia?
To help with swallowing:
- You may need to do exercises to train your muscles to work together to help you swallow. You may also need to learn how to position your body or how to put food in your mouth to be able to swallow better.
- You may need to change the foods you eat. Your doctor may tell you to eat certain foods and liquids to make swallowing easier.
- You may need to change how you prepare foods. For example, you may need to add thickeners to some liquids, or puree certain foods in a blender.
To help with pneumonia:
- Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. For example, your doctor may have given you medicine that makes breathing easier. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep. You may feel weak and tired for a while, but your energy level will improve with time.
- Take care of your cough so you can rest. A cough that brings up mucus from your lungs is common with pneumonia. It is one way your body gets rid of the infection. But if coughing keeps you from resting or causes severe fatigue and chest-wall pain, talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest that you take a medicine to reduce the cough.
- Use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Dry air makes coughing worse. Follow the instructions for cleaning the machine.
- Do not smoke and avoid others’ smoke. Smoke will make your cough last longer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) to help reduce fever and reduce chest pain caused by coughing. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
How is aspiration pneumonia in children treated?
- The doctor may give your child antibiotics.
- Your child may get medicines to help with breathing, coughing, and fever.
- Mild pneumonia often goes away in 2 to 3 weeks. Your child may need 6 to 8 weeks or longer to recover from a bad case.
- Your doctor will want you to keep your child away from smoke. After your child goes home, do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke in your house.