Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis as well as other structures located near it in the throat, such as the trachea. Acute epiglottitis is a severe condition and requires immediate medical attention because it can be life-threatening. In serious cases, epiglottitis can cause upper airway obstruction, leading to respiratory arrest and even death. Most often, epiglottitis is caused by bacterial infection although other causes are also possible. Find out the ten most common symptoms and treatments of epiglottitis.


An infection most often causes epiglottitis as a result of the Haemophilus influenza type b bacteria. This bacteria is also known to cause other diseases, including pneumonia and meningitis, both of which are very serious. When the body becomes infected, the first response often comes in the form of fever, meaning an internal temperature above the average body temperature (in most cases, that means around 100.4 F; however, this figure is dependent on age). The body experiences fever as a reaction to infection. The increased temperature is usually beneficial as it helps the body to fend off infections. Antibiotics are usually the most common treatment for epiglottitis.



Difficulty Swallowing

A common symptom for many people who experience epiglottitis is difficulty swallowing. This difficulty may make it challenging to eat solid foods as well as consuming liquids. Inflammation around the affected area usually causes difficulty swallowing. If you notice considerable difficulty swallowing, contact your doctor. Epiglottitis is usually spread by small droplets of saliva and mucus, which carry harmful bacteria. Sneezing and coughing can help to propel these tiny droplets. When breathed in, they can cause an infection to occur. Likewise, touching infected surfaces can cause infection. Intravenous fluids can help to keep the body hydrated during infection.




Another frequent sign of epiglottitis is drooling, which occurs in around 80% of all cases. The amount of drooling can range from slight to severe. Drooling is caused by the stimulation of the salivary glands, which increase their production of saliva during the infection. If you suspect epiglottitis, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible because acute epiglottitis can cause severe symptoms for the respiratory tract. Once doctors ensure correct and healthy breathing, antibiotics will be given to help treat the infection. If you have difficulty swallowing, liquids may be administered to guarantee adequate hydration and nutrition levels.




Hoarseness is a significant indication of epiglottitis. It refers to a weakening of the voice or difficulty in emitting sounds from the vocal cords. There are many different causes of hoarseness, one of which is an infection. In epiglottitis patients, the inflammation and irritation around the affected area can affect the ability to speak clearly. The best way to go about treating hoarseness is first to ensure that correct breathing is taking place and that there is no difficulty swallowing or breathing. Then, voice rest is recommended, meaning that you should aim to use the vocal cords as little as possible to avoid further irritation. Contact your doctor if you notice symptoms of epiglottitis.




Stridor is one of the more significant symptoms typically associated with epiglottitis. It is a considerable indication and therefore constitutes a medical emergency and is identified by its high-pitched sound. Stridor also often affects children, who might appear ill or otherwise restless. Because symptoms can develop very quickly, it’s imperative to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The swelling of the throat is the most immediate danger and requires airway management. In some cases, tracheal intubation is performed to ensure the protection of the airway. In more severe cases, creating a surgical opening is necessary to provide oxygen supply.



Noisy Breathing

A possible complication brought on by epiglottitis is noisy breathing. This symptom may make it more difficult to breathe and may be accompanied by other related signs such as discomfort and irritation. Noisy breathing is usually caused by the excessive production of saliva as well as inflammation in the affected areas. One of the best ways to treat noisy breathing is antibiotic treatment. Beforehand, it’s essential to receive a proper diagnosis, usually done by a fiber-optic laryngoscope to inspect the throat. In other cases, a throat swab may be used to examine the presence of bacteria or viruses.



Difficulty Breathing

In many instances, patients that develop epiglottitis experience difficulty breathing. This symptom can develop rapidly, so it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. In cases of acute epiglottitis, symptoms can appear severely. If difficulty breathing cannot be treated with less intrusive methods, a tracheostomy may be performed. During this operation, a needle is placed inside the trachea, which allows for the entrance of oxygen into the lungs. Such measures are usually a worst-case scenario and are necessary to prevent respiratory failure. If you notice symptoms of epiglottitis, consult your doctor.




Both adults and children can become affected by epiglottitis. In the latter group, restlessness is an important symptom to look out for. This condition can make it difficult to sleep, for example. Certain positions may help to breathe by reducing symptoms. A common sign to look out for is breathing with the neck, chest wall and the upper belly muscles. This is usually accompanied by wheezing or whistling sounds. When it comes to treating epiglottitis the most crucial step involves securing the airways. Afterwards, assisted breathing techniques are used to treat symptoms.



Blue Skin Coloring

Due to the severe symptoms of epiglottitis, it’s essential to receive a diagnosis as soon as possible. An immediate warning sign of acute epiglottitis is cyanosis or a blue coloring of the skin. Cyanosis is caused when the skin has low oxygen levels. The result is a purple discoloration of the mucous membranes. In emergency situations, the priority is always securing the airways. That’s why at the hospital the first treatment given usually comes in the form of an oxygen mask, which provides concentrated oxygen to the patient's lungs.



Painful Swallowing

A possible complication related to epiglottitis is painful swallowing. This is a symptom which may appear in some cases, but not all. Painful swallowing can be caused by inflammation of the throat, as well as an infection. This can lead to particular difficulties, such as not being able to swallow solid foods as well as pain during sleep. To treat painful swallowing, as well as inflammation, anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed. Corticosteroids are some of the most used drugs in this regard, and often help keep swelling to a minimum. If symptoms don’t improve, consult your doctor.



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