Epiglottitis is inflammation of the leaf-shaped lid of tissue
(epiglottis) that is located over the opening to the large breathing tube
leading to the lungs (trachea). This flap of tissue closes when a person
swallows to prevent food and fluids from getting into the trachea.
Epiglottitis can be life-threatening because the inflamed and
swollen epiglottis can rapidly block the trachea and make breathing difficult.
Epiglottitis generally begins suddenly, without a previous upper respiratory
Symptoms of epiglottitis may include:
Difficult or noisy breathing
A high fever.
Drooling and trouble
A muffled voice.
down. A child with epiglottitis usually prefers to sit up and lean forward with
his or her head and jaw forward to breathe.
In the past, most cases of bacterial epiglottitis in children were
caused by Haemophilus influenzae. This infection can be
prevented with the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
vaccine. Epiglottitis in children caused by Haemophilus influenzae is now very uncommon because of the vaccine. In adults, the
cause is usually a strep infection.
A child with epiglottitis appears very sick and in distress. If a
child has symptoms of epiglottitis, seek emergency care.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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