What They Don’t Tell You about Epiglottitis

What They Don’t Tell You about Epiglottitis

Oct 01, 2020

One of the most common pediatric airway disorders is epiglottitis. Read on to find out about its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

The disease is characterized by an inflamed and swollen epiglottis and can be life-threatening. Your epiglottis is located at the tongue’s base and consists mostly of cartilage. It acts as a valve to bar entry of liquids and food into the windpipe as you drink and eat. When the tissue making up the epiglottis becomes infected, it swells and blocks your airway. This condition needs to be treated as an emergency.

Although more prevalent in kids, adults also suffer from epiglottitis. It requires urgent pediatric airway treatment, especially in kids that are more vulnerable to breathing disorders.

Although more prevalent in kids, adults also suffer from epiglottitis. It requires urgent treatment, especially in kids that are more vulnerable to breathing disorders.


Mostly, bacterial infections cause epiglottitis. During breathing in, bacteria enter the body and infect the epiglottis. Haemophilus influenza is the most common bacteria known to cause this condition. You can catch it if you inhale germs spread by infected persons when they cough, blow their noses or sneeze. Others include Streptococcus A, B, C, and Streptococcus pneumonia.

Also, viruses like the ones that cause chickenpox, respiratory infections, and shingles can cause epiglottitis. Fungi, such as those responsible for yeast infections or diaper rash, can also inflame epiglottitis.

Other causes include:

  • Smoking cocaine
  • Chemical inhalation and burns
  • Swallowing foreign objects
  • Throat injuries from trauma

Epiglottitis Risk Factors

Although everyone is at risk of contracting epiglottis, certain factors increase your chances of developing this condition.


Kids below one year have higher chances of developing epiglottitis because they are yet to complete the Hib vaccine. Overall, the disease is more prominent in kids aged two to six years and adults 65 years and above. Additionally, kids in countries with little or no vaccine facility centers are at increased risk. The same applies to those with negligent parents that don’t care for the Hib vaccine.


Although no scientific research has revealed why it is so, there is a higher chance of men developing this disease than women.


Whether you work or live with many people, the likelihood of contracting germs from people and developing an infection is high. Likewise, environments like childcare centers and schools that are heavily populated expose your child to all sorts of respiratory infections. Such environments increase the risk of your child developing epiglottitis.

Weak Immunity

A weak immune system makes it even more difficult for the body to battle infections, thus making it easier for you to develop epiglottitis. People with diabetes in particular, are at more risk.

Epiglottitis symptoms

Although there are different causes of this condition, the symptoms are constant. They include:

  • High fever
  • Sore throat
  • Drooling
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulties during swallowing
  • Restlessness
  • Breathing through the mouth

Left untreated, epiglottitis can completely block your airways, leading to a bluish discoloration of the skin due to insufficient oxygen. This is an emergency and needs urgent care.

Diagnosing Epiglottitis

Because it is treated as an emergency, diagnosis is by assessment if your medical history and physical observations. If the doctor suspects you have this disease, you will get admitted before they perform either of these tests to establish the accuracy of the diagnosis:

  • Chest and throat x-rays to establish the severity of the infection
  • Blood and throat cultures to establish the cause
  • Throat examination

Treating Epiglottitis

In the beginning, the doctor will protect your airway and monitor your oxygen levels using a pulse oximetry device. In case of very low oxygen levels, you will be administered supplemental oxygen via a mask or breathing tube. The doctor may give you any of these treatments:

  • IV fluids for hydration and nutrition until you can swallow again normally.
  • Antibiotics for treatment of known or suspected bacterial infection
  • Anti-inflammatory medication like corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation and swelling in the throat

When your condition is severe, a tracheostomy or cricothyroidotomy procedure may be done. During a tracheostomy, the doctor makes a small incision between the tracheal rings before placing a breathing tube directly via the neck into the windpipe. This allows oxygen exchange and lowers the chances of respiratory failure. Cricothyroidotomy is the last resort. Here, the doctor makes an incision or inserts a needle into the trachea.

If you are looking for pediatric dentistry near Inglewood, CA, visit our dentist near you at Dr. Smile Dental. We offer pediatric airway treatment among several other services.

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