Chemical pneumonitis

Chemical pneumonitis

Aspiration pneumonitis or chemical pneumonitis is inflammation of the lung caused by aspirating or inhaling irritants. [1] It is sometimes called a "chemical pneumonia", though it is not infectious. There are two general types of chemical pneumonitis: acute and chronic.

Irritants capable of causing chemical pneumonitis include vomitus,[2] barium used in gastro-intestinal imaging, ingested gasoline[2] or other petroleum distillates, ingested or skin absorbed pesticides,[2] gases from electroplating,[2] smoke[2] and others. It may also be caused by the use of inhalants. Mendelson's syndrome is a type of chemical pneumonitis.

Mineral oil should not be given internally to young children, pets, or anyone with a cough, hiatus hernia, or nocturnal reflux, because it can cause complications such as lipoid pneumonia.[3] Due to its low density, it is easily aspirated into the lungs, where it cannot be removed by the body. In children, if aspirated, the oil can work to prevent normal breathing, resulting in death of brain cells and permanent paralysis and/or retardation.

Symptoms of chemical pneumonitis include:


  • Cough [2]
  • Difficulty Breathing [4]
  • Abnormal lung sounds (wet, gurgling sounding breaths) [2]
  • Chest pain, tightness or burning [4]


  • Persistent cough [4]
  • Shortness of breath [2]
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory illness [4]

Symptoms of chronic chemical pneumonitis may or may not be present, and can take months or years to develop to the point of noticeability.[4]


  1. ^ Marik, PE (2011 May). "Pulmonary aspiration syndromes.". Current opinion in pulmonary medicine 17 (3): 148-54. PMID 21311332. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Stitham, Sean et. al. "Chemical Pneumonitis: Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia", Medline Plus, 2008-8-29. Retrieved on 2009-10-06.
  3. ^ "Call For Change To Mineral Oil Label" PersonalMD, 1998-12-28. Retrieved on 2009-10-06
  4. ^ a b c d e "Chemical Pneumonitis: Causes, Symptoms" PDRHealth. Retrieved on 2009-10-06

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