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What Are Aspiration Precautions?

Aspiration precautions are safety measures taken to prevent inhalation of foreign materials into the lungs, which can cause serious health complications. These protocols are vital for individuals with swallowing difficulties or impaired cough reflexes. From positioning techniques to dietary modifications, each step is crucial for patient well-being. Wondering how these precautions can be seamlessly integrated into daily care? Let's explore together.
Madeleine A.
Madeleine A.

Aspiration precautions are measures taken to prevent a person from aspirating, or choking. Choking can occur in debilitated patients who have a diminished swallowing reflex, and the condition can even cause a type of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia. Typically, when a person swallows, the contents pass through the esophagus and into the stomach. Aspiration occurs when the swallowed contents do not pass through the esophagus, but go directly into the lungs.

Food aspiration can occur in stroke patients or when patients have been given sedating medications. In addition, when a person is getting his nutrition via a stomach tube, he can aspirate the contents of the liquid feeding, especially if he is lying flat. When someone is at risk for aspiration, he needs to have the head of his bed elevated so that gravity can help prevent this from happening.

Elevating the head of the bed and checking the lungs for abnormal sounds are precautions that may be taken for patients at risk of aspiration, or choking.
Elevating the head of the bed and checking the lungs for abnormal sounds are precautions that may be taken for patients at risk of aspiration, or choking.

When a hospitalized patient is on aspiration precautions, not only must the head of his bed be elevated, he must also be strictly monitored. In these circumstances, the nursing staff needs to periodically check the patient's lung for any abnormal sounds. If the nurse hears crackling sounds or if the patient sounds congested, a physician must be notified right away. If the patient is found to have aspirated, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat pneumonia.

People who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of aspiration.
People who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of aspiration.

Sometimes, however, even though precautions have been followed, aspiration may occur. Symptoms of aspiration and aspiration pneumonia include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and sometimes fever. In addition, the patient may have a bluish cast on his nails and on his lips. When this occurs, a medical professional needs to prescribe oxygen. When blueness of the lips and nails is present, it indicates that the patient is not breathing effectively, so oxygen may be necessary.

Someone who has consumed excessive amounts of alcohol may be at risk for aspiration due to their sedated state.
Someone who has consumed excessive amounts of alcohol may be at risk for aspiration due to their sedated state.

People who have been heavily sedated or who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol are also at risk for aspiration. Although aspiration precautions in these individuals may not be comparable to those who are hospitalized, they are important. Sedated and intoxicated people should sleep on their sides, so in the event that vomiting occurs, they will not inhale the stomach contents into their lungs.

Enteral feeding may be used to decrease the risk of aspiration in patients with vulnerable airways.
Enteral feeding may be used to decrease the risk of aspiration in patients with vulnerable airways.

When a person is caring for someone who is at risk for choking because of a medical condition, he should call the patient's healthcare provider to learn more about aspiration precautions and how he can monitor the patient for signs and symptoms of pneumonia. Also, if a caregiver does not feel comfortable taking care of the patient in the home, he can ask the healthcare provider if the patient can be admitted to the hospital where a strict precaution regimen can be initiated.

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    • Elevating the head of the bed and checking the lungs for abnormal sounds are precautions that may be taken for patients at risk of aspiration, or choking.
      By: Robert Kneschke
      Elevating the head of the bed and checking the lungs for abnormal sounds are precautions that may be taken for patients at risk of aspiration, or choking.
    • People who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of aspiration.
      By: nebari
      People who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of aspiration.
    • Someone who has consumed excessive amounts of alcohol may be at risk for aspiration due to their sedated state.
      By: Monkey Business
      Someone who has consumed excessive amounts of alcohol may be at risk for aspiration due to their sedated state.
    • Enteral feeding may be used to decrease the risk of aspiration in patients with vulnerable airways.
      By: sudok1
      Enteral feeding may be used to decrease the risk of aspiration in patients with vulnerable airways.
    • If a patient has aspirated, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat pneumonia.
      By: Marin Conic
      If a patient has aspirated, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat pneumonia.