Symptoms of Food in the Lungs

When food or a liquid enters the lungs, it is called aspiration pneumonia. A common cause might come from inhaling stomach acid or vomit or if food, liquid or spit from your mouth accidentally gets into the airway and travels down into the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia can damage the lungs or cause a blockage, according to This damage can cause either swelling or fluid in the lungs to build up and lead to an infection, such as bacterial pneumonia.

Frequent Cough

One of the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia is a frequent cough that brings up bad-smelling phlegm that may have blood streaks or pus in it or if you experience chest pain when you cough. You may also cough up a bubbly fluid from your lungs.

Shortness of Breath

Another sign of aspiration pneumonia is the feeling like you can't get enough air into your lungs or you have wheezing, which is a high-pitched whistling sound while you breath. Your resting heart rate and breathing may seem faster than normal and your skin, lips or fingernails may have a somewhat dark, dusky tinge or bluish color to them.

Swallowing Problems

Having the feeling that something is stuck in your throat or something is stuck from the neck down to just above your abdomen behind the breastbone is another symptom of aspiration pneumonia, notes MedlinePlus, an online resource of the National Institutes of Health. Other signs and symptoms of a swallowing problem include having fluid or food leak out of your nose, experiencing pain when you swallow, having food left in your mouth after swallowing, having to move your head and neck in unusual ways while swallowing, coughing and/or choking when eating or drinking, or having a wet, gurgling-like voice after swallowing.

Fatigue and Dizziness

Other symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include feeling weary, tired or lacking in energy, or feeling dizzy, faint or confused.


Treatment for aspiration pneumonia may include being hospitalized where the severity of the pneumonia can be properly assessed. The patient may receive antibiotics, which treat the bacteria that may be present in the lungs. The type of antibiotic used depends on the patient's health, if they live at home or in a long-term nursing facility, their recent antibiotic use and whether they've been hospitalized recently, states MedlinePlus. If a solid object was inhaled, a bronchoscopy may need to be used to remove it. The procedure uses a small, flexible scope that is passed through the mouth and into the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia can be a serious, life-threatening medical problem because of the risk of developing a lung infection that may spread to the bloodstream or other parts of the body, so if you experience any of the symptoms discussed, seek medical treatment immediately.

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