What is aspiration pneumonia?

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Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a person inhales foreign material through the lungs. Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, foul-smelling breath, and excessive sweating. Treatment usually involves antibiotics, and sometimes hospitalization. Elderly people are generally more at risk for developing aspiration pneumonia.

When a person inhales (or aspirates) foreign matter like food, liquid, saliva, or vomit into the lungs, bacteria grows and causes an infection which becomes aspiration pneumonia. This can also happen when food or liquid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. A person suffering from aspiration pneumonia may experience difficulty swallowing, poor oral hygiene, and wet coughing, especially after eating. Other symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, and wheezing.

People over age 60 who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are more at risk for aspiration pneumonia due to a variety of factors. These include inactivity, greater difficulty swallowing and coughing, a weakened immune system, inadequate oral hygiene, missing teeth, dentures, or dental problems that make chewing and swallowing difficult, and weakened muscles. Using a feeding tube or ventilator also increases a person’s risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Other risk factors include conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, seizure or stroke, lung disease, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Nursing homes can protect their residents from developing aspiration pneumonia by providing good dental hygiene and oral care, encouraging mobility, and evaluating residents’ nutrition and breathing functions. By creating an individual care plan based on proper nutrition, hydration, positioning, and dental care, caregivers and staff can greatly reduce nursing home residents’ risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Additionally, nursing home staff can prevent residents from developing aspiration pneumonia by having them sit up to eat, eat thickened foods and drinks, and avoid taking sedatives.

Since Georgia law requires nursing homes to use reasonable care to protect their residents from diseases like aspiration pneumonia, a facility that neglects to follow these practices may be held accountable for any resulting pain and suffering, and be required to cover related medical expenses.


If your loved one developed aspiration pneumonia at a nursing home or assisted living facility, and you are wondering if you have a claim, please feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home neglect lawyers today. Our consultations are always free. If you would like more information about this topic, be sure to click on our other videos, or better yet, click the subscribe button to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you.