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Definition

What is chemical pneumonia?

Chemical pneumonia is an unusual type of lung irritation.

How common is chemical pneumonia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of chemical pneumonia?

Signs and symptoms of chemical pneumonia vary greatly, and many factors can determine its seriousness. For instance, someone exposed to chlorine in a large outdoor pool may have only a cough and burning eyes. Someone else exposed to high levels of chlorine in a small room may die of respiratory failure.

Factors that determine the severity of signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Type and strength of chemical
  • Exposure environment: indoor, outdoor, heat, cold
  • Length of exposure: seconds, minutes, hours
  • Form of chemical: gas, vapor, particulate, liquid
  • Protective measures used to avoid exposure to chemicals
  • Prior medical condition
  • Age of the person

Chemical pneumonia may have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Burning of the nose, eyes, lips, mouth, and throat
  • Dry cough
  • Wet cough producing clear, yellow, or green mucus
  • Cough producing blood or frothy pink matter in saliva
  • Nausea or abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful breathing or pleuritis (an inflammation of the outside covering of the lungs)
  • Headache
  • Flu symptoms
  • Weakness or a general ill feeling
  • Delirium or disorientation

Chemical pneumonia signs a doctor might observe:

  • Rapid or shallow breaths
  • Rapid pulse
  • Oral, nasal, or skin burns
  • Pale or cyanotic skin and lips
  • Heavy sweating
  • Altered thinking and reasoning skills
  • Unconsciousness
  • Swelling of eyes or tongue
  • Hoarse or muffled voice
  • Chemical odors on other areas of the body
  • Frothy spit from a cough
  • Fever

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes chemical pneumonia?

Pneumonia usually is caused by a bacteria or virus. In chemical pneumonia, inflammation of lung tissue is from poisons or toxins.

Many substances can cause chemical pneumonia, including liquids, gases, and small particles, such as dust or fumes, also called particulate matter. Some chemicals only harm the lungs; however, some toxic materials affect other organs in addition to the lungs and can result in serious organ damage or death.

Aspiration pneumonia is another form of chemical pneumonia. Aspiration means that you breathe oral secretions or stomach contents into your lungs. The inflammation comes from the toxic effects of stomach acid and enzymes on lung tissue. Bacteria from the stomach or mouth can also cause a bacterial pneumonia.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for chemical pneumonia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is chemical pneumonia diagnosed?

Diagnosis and treatment for chemical pneumonia will vary depending on signs and symptoms. Frequently, the symptoms will be mild, the chemical will be well known, and the medical evaluation brief and focused.

Sometimes serious signs and symptoms will need life-saving procedures, such as artificial ventilation, advanced cardiac life support, or complex medical therapy. In most cases, the doctor will consult local poison control experts for advice.

The doctor must first make sure that hospital staff are not at risk for exposure themselves.

The next priority is to identify the chemical and consider the effects this chemical has on the lungs and the rest of the body.

A thorough history will be obtained to include the length of exposure, area of exposure, form and concentration of the chemical, other medical problems, and symptoms. In addition to close inspection of the vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature, and how much oxygen you have in your blood), the doctor will evaluate, at a minimum, the eyes, nose, throat, skin, heart, lungs, and abdomen.

Once these steps have been taken, further evaluation may vary depending on the status of the person injured, the type of chemical exposure, and other factors.

How is chemical pneumonia treated?

Evaluation and treatment vary. Almost everyone will have measurements of blood pressure, oxygen level, heart rate, and respiratory rate.

In many people with chemical pneumonia, treatment is mostly observation. Sometimes symptoms develop over time and the amount of damage done won’t be totally known for several hours.

Many treatments are possible, including the following:

  • IV fluids
  • Oxygen by mask or tube
  • Breathing treatment with medicine to open breathing tubes
  • Steroid medications by IV or mouth
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs by mouth
  • Pain medications by IV or mouth
  • Artificial ventilation (help breathing)
  • Preventive antibiotics (sometimes)

Your decision to seek medical care depends on the severity of symptoms and other factors of exposure. If you accidentally inhale a chemical, you probably want some medical advice. You can call your local poison control center for help. If your symptoms are serious, you will want immediate treatment at a hospital.

Home care may be the most important aspect of medical management.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chemical pneumonia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with chemical pneumonia:

  • Quickly get away from the offending chemical or area of exposure. If possible, avoid exposing others to the same chemical. Once you’re away from the area, consider further decontamination, such as removing your clothes and showering.
  • Alert the appropriate authorities to avoid further problems.
  • Identify and contain the chemical.
  • Medical evaluation may involve local police, fire department, emergency medical services (EMS), and hazardous materials personnel.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 25, 2017 | Last Modified: October 25, 2017

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