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Learn about your aspiration, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your aspiration from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Aspiration Checker

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Your Aspiration May Also be Known as:
Breathing in fluids
Fluid going down the wrong pipe
Fluid in lungs
Food going down the wrong pipe

Top 3 Aspiration Causes

  1. 1.Aspiration Pneumonia

    Aspiration Pneumonia occurs when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs, causing an infection.

    Going to your doctor is important, since diagnosing Aspiration Pneumonia requires a chest x-ray and a blood test. Given the possibility of the infection worsening, starting antibiotic treatment as soon as possible is really key.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, fever, coughing up green or yellow phlegm
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

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  2. 2.Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

    Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting to the lungs and into the blood due to severe fluid buildup in both lungs. It can happen in anyone over the age of 1 who is critically ill.

    Call 911 immediately for an ambulance now. Mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit (ICU) is needed to provide oxygen to the body.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, constant difficulty breathing, being severely ill, abnormally high heartrate, aspiration
    Symptoms that always occur with acute respiratory distress syndrome:
    shortness of breath, abnormally high heartrate, being severely ill, constant difficulty breathing
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  3. 3.Achalasia

    Achalasia is a disorder of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This condition affects the ability of the esophagus to move food into the stomach.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours, where imaging and exploration of your swallowing issues can be fully worked up. With diagnosis, treatment is typically surgical and outcomes are good.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    regurgitation, heartburn, unintentional weight loss, pain below the ribs, hiccups
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

FAQs About Aspiration

Here are some frequently asked questions about aspiration.

How long does aspiration pneumonia take to develop?

Aspiration pneumonia is a pneumonia caused by inhalation of some substance, usually saliva or food and occassionally stomach contents. The bacteria from the mouth then reach the lungs and are allowed to grow if the immune system is compromised or a particularly large number of bacteria are allowed to reach the lung. Aspiration pneumonia ican take up to a day or two to develop lung symptoms after the aspiration event.

Are choking and aspiration the same thing?

No. Choking is an inability to breathe because of blocking of the windpipe or larynx. Choking can cause unconsciousness and death within minutes. Aspiration is inhalation of something that is lodged in a portion of the lung or distal airway. It can compromise a portion of the lung but does not refer to blockage of an entire lung.

Can aspiration cause death?

Yes, aspiration — especially of caustic chemicals, including stomach acid, or smoke — can cause sufficient damage to the lung resulting in death. Additionally, reactions to aspirated substances can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which can lead to inability of the lung to properly transfer inhaled oxygen into the blood through destruction of lung membrane.

What are the aspiration precautions?

For an individual with trouble swallowing, a medical professional may recommend a diet that has a thicker consistency, as thinner fluids carry higher risks of aspiration. An example would be patients who suffered a stroke that damaged their swallowing abilities or gag reflex. For individuals in areas with dangerous particles (e.g. firefighters in smoky rooms, healthcare professionals around tuberculous patients), a facial mask usually referred to as an N95 respirator may be used.

What is silent aspiration in infants?

For children who are developmentally delayed or who have repeated aspiration events, the cough or gag reflex may become diminished and coughing, choking, or gagging may be less evident or not evident at all. When a child shows no reflexive (coughing, gagging, sputtering) signs of aspiration, but is found to have aspirated, this is called silent aspiration.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Aspiration

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Is your cough constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.Do you currently smoke?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our aspiration symptom checker.

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Aspiration Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced aspiration have also experienced:

    • 19% Cough
    • 5% Fatigue
    • 4% Mucous Dripping in the Back of the Throat
  • People who have experienced aspiration were most often matched with:

    • 14% Aspiration Pneumonia
    • 10% Achalasia

Aspiration Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having aspiration.

Take a quiz