Aspiration Pneumonia Is Not Contagious  

Aspiration pneumonia is something most of us have heard about as we begin to age, but in most cases, we may not be sure of exactly what it is.

We are familiar with the viral and bacterial forms of this very dangerous condition, but again the aspiration form may be new to us.

However, if you have spent any time as a caregiver for one of your or your spouse’s parents, you may be very familiar with this form of this potential killer.

The reason for this is quite simple; its major target is anyone older than 65 years of age, and each year that we age after that, we are at a much higher degree of risk at developing it.

Aspiration Pneumonia and Pneumonia Are Much Different

Aspiration pneumonia is also much different than the other forms for another very simple reason; it is not contagious.

So what exactly is it.

It is best described clinically as pulmonary aspiration, which again may or may not make any sense.

However, accidentally inhaling any type of food, liquid, backwash, or even vomit, does make a lot of sense.

This is why it gets more dangerous for all of us as we age, as any of these can and do easily occur for several reasons.

Here is basically what happens with Aspiration pneumonia

  • We accidentally inhale food into our lungs
  • We accidentally inhale liquids into our lungs
  • We belch or slightly vomit and then accidentally inhale it
  • Any of these substances than back up in our esophagus

Once any type of foreign substance gets “stuck” in our esophagus, several things can happen and none of them are good.

Once “stuck”, bacteria will immediately begin to grow and spread into our lungs.

Has This Happened Before?

If we step back and think about this, we have all had this happen at some point in our lives.

We never really thought much about it other than being “gross” but it can be and is very dangerous, especially as get older.

And again, if you have ever been a caregiver like my wife and I were for over 7 years for her 83 year old mother when she passed, this is something you are on constant guard for.

In fact, this was one of the first things her doctors and nurses warned us about.

Again the reason for this is simple and scary; Aspiration pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in seniors.

There are several risk factors for this very dangerous condition, and they include the following.

  • The muscles we use to swallow have weakened
  • Our immune system has slowed down
  • Any type of cancer where radiation was used
  • COPD and other lung diseases

However, this is just the beginning of the list as there are more risk factors.

Couple Spending Time TogetherCouple Spending Time Together

The Next Most Common Symptoms

They include the following.

  • Any type of seizure or stroke
  • Dental problems and ill-fitting dentures
  • Dementia or an impaired mental condition
  • Heartburn
  • Hiatal hernias
  • GERD
  • Acid reflux

Any of these conditions can and do lead to Aspiration pneumonia as they can all cause food or liquid to back-up into our esophagus.

It is a huge misconception that it is only food that can trigger this dangerous condition, as liquids and considered to be much more dangerous.

Again, if we take a step back and think about it, this has happened to all of us several times in the past.

The difference is that our immune system when we were younger was immediately triggered and any foreign invasion was quickly taken care of.

However, as this miraculous system that has protected us for our lifetime begins to lose some of its power, this beast is ready to attack.

Once It Enters Into Our Lungs

Once any type of bacterium enters into our lungs, it is only a matter of time before the symptoms begin to surface.

Here are the most common symptoms of Aspiration pneumonia.

  • A slight fever that can become severe if not caught
  • Coughing and gagging sensations
  • Slight mucus or sputum
  • A sudden issue with swallowing

Again, take a set back and think about this.

Have you at any time in the past few years had a sensation that you are having problems swallowing and do not feel good?

If so, be real careful and watch for the additional symptoms.

  • A sudden shortness of breath
  • A sudden development of slight and then moderate chest pains
  • A sudden onset of hoarseness or even losing your voice
  • A sudden onset of feeling very tired

If you have several of these symptoms, there is a very high degree of probability that you have this potential killer.

However, this condition is still quite easy to treat in our 60’s, but as we enter into our 70’s and then 80’s if we are lucky, it can and is deadly.

Again, if you are or about to be a caregiver, this is the first thing you need to be on full alert for.

One Other Real Warning Sign

If your parent or loved one you are caring for has never really coughed and was never a smoker, this is a real warning sign.

If they were or are a smoker, you will need to be even more careful.

If you or your loved one does get it and you catch it early, it is easy to treat unlike some of the other forms.

It can easily be treated by antibiotics and a steroid shot, and depending on your age, you may need additional oxygen.

Again, since Aspiration pneumonia is more challenging to someone in their 70’s or 80’s than in our 60’s, there are several things we can do to help prevent it.

They include the following, especially if you are a caregiver

  • Make sure they set up straight when they eat
  • Eat soft foods—very, very important
  • Make the liquids thicker—very easy to do
  • Make sure dentures fit properly or your teeth are healthy
  • Avoid sedatives before and directly after you eat.

Aspiration pneumonia can and is very dangerous, but it can be stopped it you are aware of it.

References

http://www.healthline.com/health/aspiration-pneumonia#symptoms2

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  • Bacterial Pneumonia

    Bacterial pneumonia is the most common form and in most all cases it is very easy to treat if you follow your doctor’s directions.


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