Fumes, dusts, and certain chemicals can enter the body through respiration. These chemicals can reach the lungs, causing irritation and inflammation of the air passages. This inflammation can be caused by household chemicals, pollutants, industrial gases, and other chemicals. This ailment is known as chemical pneumonitis.
Symptoms Of Chemical Pneumonitis
It is a good idea to distinguish the symptoms of acute and chronic chemical pneumonitis.
Symptoms of acute chemical pneumonitis
- Breathing difficulties
- Burning feeling or any unusual sensation in the chest.
- Abnormal lung sounds such as gurgling.
- Faster, deeper, and forced breathing due to a feeling of having insufficient air in the passages.
Chronic chemical pneumonitis symptoms
- Rapid forced breathing
- Shortness of breath even with mild activities
- Progressive disability due to shortness of breath
- Coughing (though this symptom may not occur at times)
It is important to understand that the symptoms of chemical pneumonitis can be similar to other respiratory illnesses. Therefore, it is best to bring the patient to a physician who can diagnose the ailment.
Chemical Pneumonitis Complications
Complications due to chemical pneumonitis include:
- Respiratory failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
There is always a risk of permanent lung damage, especially for those who have been exposed to concentrated fumes or are regularly exposed to less concentrated chemicals.
Mortality is one of the most serious complications for chemical pneumonitis. The reason for this is that the lungs are the ones that are damaged. Without immediate and proper treatment, most patients die. In fact, mortality rate is very high at 70%.
Treatment For Chemical Pneumonia
- There is no definite treatment for chemical pneumonitis. It will always be a symptomatic treatment.
- The treating doctor will analyze the health of the patient after examining him. The primary things to be looked for are pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation in the blood etc.
- Observing the patient is important as some times the signs of damage to the respiratory tract are visible severable hours after the inhalation of the chemical or the obnoxious agent.
- The best way to treat the ailment is to first provide a means for proper respiration. That means that the patient may have to be given oxygen if he/she could not breathe on his/her own.
- Some medications may have to be administered to reduce inflammation.
- Emergency measures such as ventilator may be needed, if the lungs are not functioning to its normal capacity.
- Prognosis will depend on the chemical exposure; the amount of the chemical inhaled and the person’s medical fitness, for e.g. elderly individuals suffering from chemical pneumonitis are more susceptible to serious condition compared to a young individual whose lungs are in a good state.