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Epiglottitis - Symptoms & Treatment


Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis. A number of factors can cause the epiglottis to swell, including burns from hot liquids, a direct injury to the throat, and various viral and bacterial infections. The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage that closes off the entry to your voice box (larynx) when you swallow. Epiglottitis is most common in children 2 to 5 years old. It normally stops food going down the wrong way, into your air tubes. However, if the epiglottis becomes swollen, it can block the passage of air into the lungs . The most common cause of epiglottitis is infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the same bacterium that causes pneumonia and meningitis. This refers to inflammation of the part of the windpipe above the voice box. Sometimes this part of the windpipe can get swollen and cause similar symptoms, without actually involving the epiglottis. Routine Hib vaccination for infants has made epiglottitis an uncommon condition, but it remains a valid concern. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has epiglottitis, seek emergency help immediately. Prompt treatment can prevent life-threatening complications.

The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped cartilaginous structure covered with a mucous membrane. Due to its place in the airway swelling of this structure can interfere with breathing and constitutes a medical emergency . Unfortunately, rare cases of epiglottitis still occur, caused by other bacteria (chiefly Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae ). If you believe you have epiglottis, call 911 or visit a doctor immediately. Children with epiglottitis have an illness that early on masquerades as viral croup , but who had progressive symptoms of high fever, drooling, restlessness and reluctance to lie down because of impending respiratory obstruction. Children with epiglottitis often have bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia), which sometimes spreads the infection to the lungs, the joints, the tissues covering the brain (meninges), the sac around the heart, or the tissue beneath the skin.

Causes of Epiglottitis

The common Causes of Epiglottitis :

  • The most common cause of epiglottitis is infection with the bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type b, also called HIB.
  • Epiglottitis is a disorder caused by inflammation of the cartilage that covers the trachea.
  • Difficulty breathing may cause the patient to sit up, leaning slightly forward and looking very anxious.
  • Recent reports have shown that even vaccinated children can develop epiglottitis from H influenzae .
  • Epiglottis can also be caused by other types of bacteria including some types of Streptococcus bacteria and the bacteria responsible for causing diphtheria.
  • The Hib vaccine has decreased the number of cases due to infection with this organism.

Symptoms of Epiglottitis

Some Symptoms of Epiglottitis :

  • Cyanosis
  • Drooling
  • Stridor
  • Anxious
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pneumonia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Shaking
  • Blue skin

Treatment of Epiglottitis

  • Treatment usually involves the administration of humidified oxygen, which is oxygen that has been moistened to help the patient breathe. Oxygen therapy and arterial blood gas monitoring may be desirable.
  • Epinephrine have been used in the past. However, there is no good proof that these medications are helpful in cases of epiglottitis.
  • Hospitalization is required because this is an emergency situation. The patient is usually admitted to the intensive care unit.
  • Antibiotics may be used to treat the infection. Corticosteroids may be used to decrease the swelling of the throat. Patients should be given an antibiotic drug such as ceftriaxone.
  • Intravenous fluids are given to increase hydration.

 

 

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