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Acute Epiglottitis In Children


Epiglottitis is swelling of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is the flap of tissue at the back of your child's tongue. Epiglottitis is most commonly caused by a bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). The epiglottis opens when your child breathes and closes when he swallows. When the epiglottis swells, it can block his airway. This condition is a medical emergency.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give your child this medicine exactly as ordered by his healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or give your child leftover antibiotics that were given to him for another illness.
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Prevent acute epiglottitis from happening again:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often: Encourage everyone in your household to wash their hands with soap and water after they use the bathroom or change a child's diaper. They should also wash their hands before they prepare food or eat. This will help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Hib vaccine helps prevent infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). All infants and children aged 2 months through 4 years should get the Hib vaccine. A total of 3 to 4 doses are given. The first dose may be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child will not drink because his throat is sore.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has a fever, sore throat, and a hoarse or muffled voice.
  • Your child has harsh, raspy breathing.
  • Your child has shortness of breath or he leans forward with his mouth open and tongue out to help him breathe.
  • The skin between your child's ribs is being sucked in with each breath.
  • Your child is drooling because he cannot swallow.
  • Your child's lips, skin, or fingernails are blue, gray, or white.
  • Your child faints.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.