Learn About Chemical Pneumonitis

What is the definition of Chemical Pneumonitis?

Chemical pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs or breathing difficulty due to inhaling chemical fumes or breathing in and choking on certain chemicals.

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What are the alternative names for Chemical Pneumonitis?

Aspiration pneumonia - chemical

What are the causes of Chemical Pneumonitis?

Many chemicals used in the home and workplace can cause pneumonitis.

Some common dangerous inhaled substances include:

  • Chlorine gas (breathed in from cleaning materials such as chlorine bleach, during industrial accidents, or near swimming pools)
  • Grain and fertilizer dust
  • Noxious fumes from pesticides
  • Smoke (from house fires and wildfires)

There are two types of pneumonitis:

  • Acute pneumonitis occurs suddenly after breathing in the substance.
  • Long-term (chronic) pneumonitis occurs after exposure to low levels of the substance over a long time. This causes inflammation and may lead to stiffness of the lungs. As a result, the lungs start to lose their ability to get oxygen to the body. Untreated, this condition can cause respiratory failure and death.

Chronic aspiration of acid from the stomach and exposure to chemical warfare can also lead to chemical pneumonitis.

What are the symptoms of Chemical Pneumonitis?

Acute symptoms may include:

  • Air hunger (feeling that you cannot get enough air)
  • Breathing that sounds wet or gurgling (abnormal lung sounds)
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unusual sensation (possibly burning feeling) in the chest

Chronic symptoms may include:

  • Cough (may or may not occur)
  • Progressive disability (related to shortness of breath)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Shortness of breath with only mild exercise
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What are the current treatments for Chemical Pneumonitis?

Treatment is focused on reversing the cause of inflammation and reducing symptoms. Corticosteroids may be given to reduce inflammation, often before long-term scarring occurs.

Antibiotics are usually not helpful or needed, unless there is a secondary infection. Oxygen therapy may be helpful.

In cases of swallowing and stomach problems, eating small meals in the upright position can help. In severe cases, a feeding tube in the stomach is needed, although this does not always completely prevent aspiration into the lungs.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Chemical Pneumonitis?

The outcome depends on the chemical, the severity of exposure, and whether the problem is acute or chronic.

What are the possible complications of Chemical Pneumonitis?

Respiratory failure and death can occur.

When should I contact a medical professional for Chemical Pneumonitis?

Contact your health care provider if you have trouble breathing after inhaling (or possibly inhaling) any substance.

How do I prevent Chemical Pneumonitis?

Only use household chemicals as directed, and always in well-ventilated areas. Never mix ammonia and bleach.

Follow workplace rules for breathing masks and wear the right mask. People who work near fire should take care to limit their exposure to smoke or gases.

Be careful about giving mineral oil to anyone who might choke on it (children or older people).

Sit up while eating and don't lie down right after eating if you have swallowing problems.

Do not siphon gas, kerosene, or other toxic liquid chemicals.

Respiratory system
What are the latest Chemical Pneumonitis Clinical Trials?
Low-osmolar Contrast Tagging in Minimal Cathartic CT Colonography

Summary: CT colonography (CTC) is a validated screening exam for colorectal cancer. The diagnostic accuracy of CTC depends on the quality of the bowel cleansing and contrast tagging of residual stool and fluid. New bowel preparation media for CTC should be assessed for their efficacy and for patient satisfaction. Iohexol is currently approved by the FDA for oral use for imaging of the gastrointestinal trac...

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Impact of a Strategy Based on the Unyvero® Testing System on Appropriate Antimicrobial Treatment in Patients With Suspected Aspiration Pneumonia Requiring Mechanical Ventilation : a Randomized Controlled Unblinded Trial

Summary: The two most common consequences resulting from aspiration are chemical pneumonitis and bacterial aspiration pneumonia. Both entities present with comparable clinical signs and symptoms. In the absence of a reliable clinical or biological marker to differentiate between these two conditions, most patients with suspected aspiration are treated empirically with antibiotics. De-escalation of initial ...

What are the Latest Advances for Chemical Pneumonitis?
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: August 03, 2020
Published By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Blanc PD. Acute responses to toxic exposures. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 75.

Christiani DC. Physical and chemical injuries of the lungs. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 88.

Gibbs AR, Attanoos RL. Environmental- and toxin-induced lung diseases. In: Zander DS, Farver CF, eds. Pulmonary Pathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 18.

Tarlo SM. Occupational lung disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 87.