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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.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Emotional support:

Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.

  • Blood gases: These tests are also called arterial blood gases (ABGs). Blood is taken from an artery usually in your child's wrist. ABGs may be done if your child has trouble breathing or other problems caused by the illness.
  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give caregivers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.
  • Breathing treatments: This is medicine to help open your child's airways so he can breathe easier. A handheld device may be used to help your child breathe in medicine. A healthcare provider will help your child with these treatments.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your child's lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child's heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help caregivers diagnose your child's symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.
  • Endotracheal tube: Your child may need an endotracheal tube (ET tube) to help him breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ET tube may be left in for a few days, then taken out when your child is breathing better.
  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your child's skin record the electrical activity of his heart.
  • IV: An IV may be placed in your child's vein for to give him extra liquids or medicine.
  • Laryngoscopy: A laryngoscopy is done to find out what is causing your child's breathing problems. Healthcare providers use a small soft tube with a light on the end or a metal tool to look at your child's epiglottis. Healthcare providers may give your child medicine to numb or decrease feeling in his throat before the test.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Bronchodilators: This medicine may help your child breathe easier. It also may help your child get oxygen into his lungs and blood.
    • Sedatives: This medicine may be given to help your child feel calm and relaxed.
    • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease swelling and redness of the epiglottis and the tissue around it.
  • Neck x-ray: This is a picture of the inside of your child's neck. It may show the swollen area around the epiglottis.
  • Oxygen: Your child may need extra oxygen to help him breathe better. The oxygen may be mixed with water vapor to help keep his airways and lungs moist.
  • Throat culture: A throat culture is done by rubbing a cotton swab on the epiglottis. The swab will be sent to the lab for tests to help healthcare providers learn if your child has a throat infection.
  • Tracheostomy tube: If healthcare providers are not able to put an ET tube into your child's nose or mouth, a tracheotomy may be done. Healthcare providers cut a small hole in your child's throat. They put a tube in your child's trachea so he can breathe better.


The bacteria can spread to other body parts, such as the ears, lungs, or spine. This can cause pneumonia, meningitis, or respiratory failure. Your child's lungs may fill with fluid and prevent him from getting enough oxygen. Epiglottitis is life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

© 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.