Aspiration simply means that foreign material such as vomit, food or liquid is inhaled or blown into the trachea or lungs. Aspiration can cause a person to have aspiration pneumonia as well as other respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic cough.
Aspiration of foreign materials into the lungs can be caused by anaesthesia, absent or decreased gag reflex, excessive alcohol use, sedatives, old age, problems swallowing, disorders of the oesophagus, dental problems, certain medications and acid reflux. Acidic aspiration found in those who have severe acid reflux can cause lung injury.
Some symptoms of aspiration are cough, chest pain, bluish skin due to the lack of oxygen, fever, fatigue, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Tests used to determine aspiration are a chest X-ray, CAT scan of the chest, CBC blood test, sputum culture and blood culture.
If aspiration causes pneumonia, the person may need to be hospitalised. Antibiotics, inhalers and oxygen may also be used to treat pneumonia caused by aspiration.