What Is Aspiration Pneumonia?

Aspiration pneumonia is a complication of pulmonary aspiration, or the inhalation of food, liquid or vomit into the lungs.

When the respiratory system is healthy and strong, pulmonary aspiration often clears up on its own. When the respiratory system is compromised or a digestive disorder causes chronic pulmonary aspiration, a bacterial infection can occur, causing pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the alveoli, or lung sacs. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, causing pain and difficulty breathing.

Inhaling foods or liquids is of particular concern for infants and toddlers, as well as people over 65 years old.