All You Need To Know About Aspiration Precautions

Everyone is at a risk of inhaling fluids into their lungs a process called aspiration. This is especially so for patients with certain chronic or acute diseases. These fluids may be food particles, liquids such as drinks or even saliva or may be gastric contents such as vomit. Aspiration is highly risky, sometimes leading to death and therefore aspiration precautions need to be taken.

When the risk of aspiration occurring is suspected, a swallowing evaluation is supposed to be made. The function of a swallowing evaluation is to assess the probability of risk, swallowing difficulties and also determine foods which are safe for consumption in such scenarios. Necessary precautions are then recommended in case the risk is assessed to be high.

Tube feeding is one of the biggest risks for fluids entering into the lungs. Tubes are used to feed patients who have conditions such as spinal cord injury, altered consciousness, muscle weakness or post surgery complications. Tubes increase the risk of gastric fluids entering into the airways. Therefore, while tube feeding; caregivers need to ensure that patients are upright and that the tube is off when not in use. The residual from the tube should also be checked regularly.

Just like in tube feeding, in mouth feeding the patient should be upright. This position can be assumed either on a seat or in a bed and should remain up to half an hour after feeding. For both tube feeders and non tube feeders, food should neither be forced nor hurriedly eaten. A head-bed angle of between 30 to 45 degrees should be maintained all the times unless otherwise stated due to a medical condition.

A patient who is not conscious or is slightly conscious has higher chances of aspiration. Medication which has side effects such as drowsiness or weakness can also be blamed. Therefore, the level of consciousness of patients should always be monitored frequently. In addition, only patients who are fully alert should be given food or liquid.

Another factor causing intake of fluids into airways is the use of general anesthesia. Therefore, sedatives ought to be used when absolutely necessary. Moreover, sedatives also impair cough and gag reflexes. Surgeries are supposed to be performed when the patient has not had anything to eat. Fluids are likely to enter into the lungs if the patient is operated on a full stomach. As a result, fasting is advised before operations are performed.

Inability to cough or have a normal gag reflex may cause aspiration as cough reflexes remove particles likely to enter into the airways. As a result, coughing problems should be addressed without delay. The ability to have a normal cough reflex and clearing of throat should be made during a swallowing evaluation.

With fluids in the lung the risk for getting pneumonia is four times higher. Like wise, lung infection bearing pus in the lungs is also possible. When solid matter is inhaled into the airway, the situation is potentially fatal. To avert all these problems, it is prudent to have the necessary precautions in place and abide by them.

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