Epiglottitis (patient information)
Epiglottitis On the Web
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What are the symptoms of Epiglottitis?
- Abnormal breathing sounds (stridor)
- Chills, shaking
- Cyanosis (blue skin coloring)
- Difficulty breathing (patient may need to sit upright and lean slightly forward to breathe)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice changes (hoarseness)
What causes Epiglottitis?
Epiglottitis is a life-threatening disease. The epiglottis is a piece of cartilage at the back of the tongue that closes off the windpipe when swallowing. It keeps food from entering the airways, so you don't cough or choke after swallowing.
Epiglottitis is swelling of the epiglottis, which leads to breathing problems. Swelling of the epiglottis is usually caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae), although it may be caused by other bacteria or viruses. Upper respiratory infections can lead to epiglottitis. Medicines or diseases that weaken the immune system can make adults more prone to epiglottitis.
Who is at highest risk for Epiglottitis?
The health care provider will examine the voice box (larynx) using either a small mirror held against the back of the throat or a viewing tube called a laryngoscope. The exam may show a swollen and red epiglottis.
Tests used to diagnose epiglottitis may include:
- Blood culture or throat culture -- may show H. influenzae or other bacteria
- Complete blood count (CBC) -- may show a high number of white blood cells
- Neck x-rays -- may show a swollen epiglottis
When to seek urgent medical care?
Other treatments may include:
- Antibiotics to treat the infection
- Anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids to decrease throat swelling
- Fluids given through a vein (by IV)