Epiglottitis is severe swelling of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a flap-like tissue located in the throat. During swallowing, the epiglottis folds over the windpipe and vocal chords to prevent food and liquids from entering the lungs. Swelling can quickly seal off the airway and make breathing difficult.Epiglottitis is rare and requires immediate medical attention. If you think you, your child, or someone you know has epiglottitis, call for emergency medical services right away.
The Throat
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Factors that can cause epiglottitis include:
  • Bacteria, viruses, and fungi
  • Burns from hot liquids
  • Physical injury to the throat area
  • Crack cocaine

Risk Factors

Epiglottitis spreads easily. It is passed much like the common cold , through droplets released when sneezing and coughing. Anyone can develop epiglottitis. This condition is more common in:
  • Infants younger than 2 months who are too young to receive vaccines
  • Children, aged 3-7, living in countries that do not offer vaccines
  • People of African American and Hispanic descent
Other factors that may increase your risk include:
  • Living in close quarters
  • Attending day care, being in school, or working in an office
  • Season—more common in winter


Symptoms may include
  • Cough
  • Fever over 103°F
  • Sore throat and severe throat pain
  • Difficulty swallowing with drooling
  • Muffled voice
  • Breathing problems:
    • Rapid breathing
    • Increasingly difficult breathing
    • Leaning forward and arching the neck backward to breathe
    • Squeaky or raspy sounds while inhaling, caused by airway blockage
  • Symptoms associated with low oxygen levels:
    • Bluish tint to skin or lips
    • Sluggishness
    • Confusion
    • Irritability
Symptoms appear suddenly and worsen quickly.Note: Do not attempt to use a tongue depressor or any other utensil to look into the person’s throat. A throat spasm could occur and cause the airway to close completely.

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