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Notably, epiglottitis is an acute inflammation of the epiglottis, which is a structure in the back of the tongue and above the entrance to the throat. It is important to realize that the epiglottis protects the airways from food that is being swallowed. As this condition usually presents in an acute fashion, it is often also called “acute epiglottitis”.

It must be remembered that acute epiglottitis is another life threatening respiratory condition, which can occur suddenly in children. It is an acute inflammation of the epiglottis. An infection with bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus aureus, beta-hemolytic streptococcus or Haemophilus parainfluenzae can cause this. On the positive side, in the last few years an intense vaccination program has almost eradicated Haemophilus influenzae cases, but epiglottitis from the other causes is still around.


In fact, a previously healthy child suddenly gets a high fever, throat pain, a hoarseness and problems swallowing. In this case breathing gets faster and the child is fighting to get air. To be sure, this is an emergency like acute croup and requires the call of an emergency response team (call 911). In this case the hospital environment is necessary for such a complex problem.




That is to say, a team consisting of an ENT specialist, an anesthesiologist and a pediatrician is usually necessary for this problem. Certainly, initially laryngoscopy may be required to inspect, take cultures and immediately place a small nasotracheal intubation tube. Typically, the nasotracheal intubation tube is a clear tube, the smaller red suction tube is for gastric suction to prevent aspiration pneumonia. In general, if this procedure fails, the physician must do an immediate tracheotomy to place an airway. Surely, close observation in an intensive care unit is important to monitor that no further deterioration occurs. Certainly, the physician also gives intravenous antibiotics with a betalactamase resistant antibiotic until the final culture report and sensitivity tests are back and the antibiotic can be adjusted.


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Last modified: April 4, 2021

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.