Epiglottitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


Look at these pics, If you see a little child who is

1. Sitting and leaning forward.

2. Drooling saliva with mouth open.

3. Neck extended with arms on the bed/thighs.

TAKE THAT CHILD TO HOSPITAL ASAP. That is epiglottitis. The child can die in a few hours.

Epiglottitis symptoms in a child
Epiglottis inflection
Epiglottis inflection

What is Epiglottitis?

It is a fancy term for the inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis.

What is the Epiglottis? The epiglottis is the medical name for the flap of tissue that covers your windpipe when you eat so that food doesn’t mistakenly get into your lungs.

The epiglottis is very important and needs to be very functional because if theoretically, food were to accidentally go the wrong way into your lungs, That can lead to choking, aspiration, chest infection, hospital admission, problems with breathing and eventually death.

The bad thing about Epiglottitis is that it can develop over a few HOURS (or days) and become a very serious emergency.

It is NOT something to joke with. That child (or even adult) will literally be dead in a few hours if they do not get to a good hospital very quickly.

In younger children, the commonest symptoms are hoarse voice, breathing difficulty and noisy breathing. In adults and older children, it is mostly difficulty with swallowing and drooling. You just see the person very restless, breathless and drooling saliva.



Severe sore throat

Pain/Difficulty swallowing

High fever Drooling saliva

Recent cattarh/cold

Difficulty breathing

Noisy breathing Muffled voice

Hoarse voice

Very restless

Sitting leaning forward

Supporting body with both hands

All these are the commonest symptoms. Please note.

As I explained, the epiglottis is a flap of tissue that only covers the windpipe when we eat- it opens up for us to breathe and allows air into our lungs.

But when a child/adult has Epiglottitis, the flap is permanently covering the windpipe so no oxygen can get to the lungs.

And in a matter of minutes, if no oxygen gets into that child, death will happen.

How is Epiglottitis treated? It’s treated in the hospital.

And the first thing doctors do is to SECURE THE AIRWAY and give oxygen immediately.

Because that’s what kills the child, if not done.

So what causes Epiglottitis?

It is caused by the bacteria called H. Influenza, same bacteria causes pneumonia and meningitis. So it can be quite serious. How do you get Epiglottitis? The bacteria is spread as droplets in the air- so you can pick it up if someone coughs/sneezes.

You may also catch the infection by breathing in the droplets or if the droplets have landed on a surface like a table or an object somewhere, when you touch this surface and then touch your face or mouth, you could get it. So always wash your hands after shaking people. Always.

DONT LET STRANGERS KISS YOUR BABY. Don’t ever make that mistake. Let them call you whatever names they will. Never allow strangers touch your baby anyhow on the face or kiss your baby at all. Too risky. Too dangerous. And the child could potentially die from serious infection.

Another way to prevent Epiglottitis is to get your children immunised. I know we have the immunization available for children in Uk. I’ve forgotten if it is available in Nigeria also. Please check at the nearest hospital close to you and ask for Hemophilus Influenza vaccination.

Finally if you see someone with epiglottitis:

Do NOT panic.

Do NOT pour oil in their mouth.

Do NOT stick anything in their throat like a spoon or stick.

That can make things worse and cause a throat spasm that will kill them faster than even the infection would. Please beware.

I hope you learnt something new.

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And also help share with others.

On any platform that you like.

Thanks for reading.

Have a nice day at work.

Dr Olufunmilayo 




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