Epiglottitis historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Prince Tano Djan, BSc, MBChB [2]


One remarkable incident of epiglottitis has been traced to George Washington; the first president of the United States on December 13, 1799. He was reported to have had sore throat and hoarseness of voice. At dawn the next day, his conditioned worsened with difficulty in breathing. A few hours later, he was found to be in respiratory distress. Washington died few hours later of acute epiglottitis.[1][2][3] In the 1980s, Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine was introduced. Prior to this, epiglottitis used to be mostly found in pediatric age group between 3 to 5 years.[4] However, recent trends in North America have shown adults to be the most commonly affected individuals.[5]

Historical perspective

  • On December 13, 1799, George Washington, the United States’ first president, was reported to have had sore throat and hoarseness of voice.
  • At dawn the next day, his conditioned worsened with difficulty in breathing. Few hours later he was found to have respiratory distress.
  • The physicians who attended to him tried all treatment modalities but were unsuccessful and by 10:20 PM was declared dead of what was most likely due to bacterial epiglottitis after a review of the signs, symptoms, and clinical course of his fatal illness. It is likely that if he had lived in recent times, the sequela would have been different.[1][2][3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Scheidemandel HH (1976). "Did George Washington die of quinsy?". Arch Otolaryngol. 102 (9): 519–21. PMID 786230.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cohen B (2005). "The death of George Washington (1732-99) and the history of cynanche". J Med Biogr. 13 (4): 225–31. PMID 16244717.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cheatham ML (2008). "The death of George Washington: an end to the controversy?". Am Surg. 74 (8): 770–4. PMID 18705585.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Schlossberg, David (2015). Clinical infectious disease (Second ed.). p. 202. ISBN 9781107038912.
  5. Lichtor JL, Roche Rodriguez M, Aaronson NL, Spock T, Goodman TR, Baum ED (2016). "Epiglottitis: It Hasn't Gone Away". Anesthesiology. 124 (6): 1404–7. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001125. PMID 27031010.
  6. Wurtele P (1992). "Acute epiglottitis: historical highlights and perspectives for future research". J Otolaryngol. 21 Suppl 2: 1–15. PMID 1613842.