Chemical Pneumonia 101

Chemical Pneumonia 101

Pneumonia caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses is a lung infection characterized by inflammation of the air sacs. Although bacterial and viral pneumonia is the most common, chemical pneumonia can be just as bad and at times fatal.

What Is Chemical Pneumonia?

Chemical pneumonia is a lung inflammation caused by exposure to poisons and toxins. Substances such as gases, liquids, dust, and fumes are the primary cause of chemical pneumonia, although lung infection can also be caused by aspiration. Aspiration occurs when you inhale stomach contents such as acid and enzymes. When you have irritants in your lungs, the body responds by coughing to clear up the contents. However, if this mechanism is broken, acids and enzymes can cause lung infection.

What Are the Symptoms?

Chemical pneumonia symptoms vary from person to person based on different factors such as:

  • Type of irritant
  • Exposure environment. Indoor exposure has more serious symptoms than outdoors
  • How long you were exposed to the irritant
  • The form of irritant. It is gas, vapor, liquid or particulate
  • Existing medical condition
  • Age

Because of these factors, the severity and symptoms will differ. However, common symptoms include dry cough, burning sensation in the eyes and throat, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, and headaches.

Other symptoms include rapid pulse, heavy sweating, oral and skin burns, hoarse voice, and swelling of the eyes.

What to Expect at Your Doctor’s Appointment?

The diagnosis and the type of tests done will depend on the type of symptoms you have. If your symptoms are mild and the chemical is known, the evaluation will be short. However, in most cases, the doctor performs a thorough medical evaluation to check if the lungs and heart are affected. You will be asked questions regarding the type of chemical, length of exposure, and form of concentration. Furthermore, they will inspect your vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate.

In severe cases, the doctor may perform life-saving procedures such as cardiac life support, artificial ventilation, and medical therapy to prevent any complications.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Chemical pneumonia symptoms develop over time and the side effects may not be known for a couple of hours. Therefore, in the first few hours, the doctor will only observe the symptoms. Afterward, they may prescribe any of these treatments; IV fluids, breathing treatment, artificial ventilation, preventive antibiotics, oxygen, breathing treatments, steroid medications, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain relievers.

Apart from medication, self-care is important. If you accidentally inhale or come in contact with a chemical it is important to seek urgent care near you or visit a poison control center for assistance. Here are other tips for managing the infection at home:

  • Get away from the chemical and if possible stay away from other people to avoid exposing them to the substance.
  • Remove all the contaminated clothes and take a shower
  • Alert the authorities or visit an ER in San Antonio
  • Identify the chemical for easy assessment at the hospital

When Is Chemical Pneumonia an Emergency?

Chemical exposure of any kind can be fatal and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Therefore, act promptly when you come in contact with a chemical substance or if you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms. If the symptoms are severe, call for an ambulance instead of driving because the medical personnel will start treatment immediately and monitor your progress as you head to the hospital.

Visit our emergency care in San Antonio if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A blue discoloration in the mouth and skin
  • Unconsciousness
  • Shortness or difficulty breathing
  • Sudden change in voice
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Altered reasoning
  • Coughs with blood

Are There Complications?

Chemical pneumonia can cause both short and long-term complications including organ injury, scarring, and recurrent pneumonia. Prolonged exposure to a chemical can lead to organ failure and death.

Taking the necessary steps to address chemical pneumonia when it occurs will prevent any of these complications. When you suspect any of the signs and symptoms, seek urgent care near you for assessment and treatment.

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