Lipoid pneumonia due to Mexican folk remedies: cultural barriers to diagnosis

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Nov;159(11):1043-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.159.11.1043.


Objective: To describe 2 cases of lipoid pneumonia in Mexican American infants after administration of vegetable- or animal-derived oils and the cultural barriers to diagnosis. Various folk remedies have been documented in the international medical literature that involve the oral or nasal administration of vegetable- or animal-derived oils to children for the treatment of common ailments, including nasal stuffiness, constipation, and colic. Lipoid pneumonia is a known complication of such practices in Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.

Methods: Case reports of 2 Mexican American infants with respiratory distress and interviews with 30 immigrant families of Mexican origin.

Results: In both cases, language and cultural barriers resulted in a delayed diagnosis of lipoid pneumonia. Interviews with immigrant families confirmed that oil administration to children is a common traditional therapy in Mexican cultures.

Conclusions: These findings underscore the need for primary care providers to be aware of the traditional practice of oil administration to infants in many cultures, its pathophysiological consequences, the potential cultural barriers to timely diagnosis, and the opportunity to prevent cases of lipoid pneumonia through anticipatory guidance.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Pneumonia, Lipid / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Lipid / ethnology*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Plant Oils