Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Epiglottitis is an inflammation of the epiglottis (a small flap of tissue that covers the entrance to the lungs when swallowing), which causes the epiglottis to swell. It can be mistaken for the croup, but is much more dangerous and life threatening. Children aged 2–12 years are usually affected, although adults without immunity to the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria have been known to develop it. It is usually caused by a bacteria such as H. influenzae, or occasionally by streptococcus. Prevention is now available with the Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Epiglottitis has a sudden onset. Symptoms and signs include severe sore throat, muffled voice with hoarseness, fever, drooling caused by difficulty swallowing saliva, and increased difficulty breathing. Children with epiglottitis will tilt their neck back and lean forward, trying to inhale more air.

Hospitalization is usually needed for oxygen and intravenous antibiotics. Close observation is needed in case the airway becomes totally obstructed and an emergency airway is needed. Death can occur if untreated. With treatment, improvement of symptoms is seen in 24 hours, with complete relief of swelling in 72 hours. Children with suspected epiglottitis should be kept in an upright position to aid breathing. Keep them calm until reaching the hospital because breathing becomes more difficult if they panic. After hospitalization it will be necessary to continue antibiotics for at least 10 days. A cool-mist humidifier will be helpful at night for several weeks; remember to change the water and clean the unit daily.

The DOs
• Have your child immunized with the Hib vaccine early.
• Seek emergency treatment if epiglottitis is suspected.
• Continue antibiotics as directed, usually at least 10 days.
• Resume activity gradually after all symptoms disappear.
• Encourage fluids and follow a normal diet as tolerated.
• Continue using a cool-mist vaporizer at the bedside for several weeks. Remember to change water and clean unit daily.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t delay treatment because death can occur if the infection is not treated.
• Don’t skip doses or stop antibiotics before they are finished.

When to Call Your Doctor
• There are signs of a respiratory infection and your child has had epiglottitis in the past.
• During a respiratory infection there is any difficulty breathing.
• After treatment, fever or sore throat recurs.

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