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Epiglottitis is inflammation of the leaf-shaped lid of tissue
(epiglottis) that is located over the opening to the large breathing tube
leading to the lungs (trachea). This flap of tissue closes when a person
swallows to prevent food and fluids from getting into the trachea.
Epiglottitis can be life-threatening because the inflamed and
swollen epiglottis can rapidly block the trachea and make breathing difficult.
Epiglottitis generally begins suddenly, without a previous upper respiratory
Symptoms of epiglottitis may include:
In the past, most cases of bacterial epiglottitis in children were
caused by Haemophilus influenzae. This infection can be
prevented with the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
vaccine. Epiglottitis in children caused by Haemophilus influenzae is now very uncommon because of the vaccine. In adults, the
cause is usually a strep infection.
A child with epiglottitis appears very sick and in distress. If a
child has symptoms of epiglottitis, seek emergency care.
December 21, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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