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Acute Epiglottitis In Children


What is acute epiglottitis?

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.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute epiglottitis?

Epiglottitis often begins with a fever and severe sore throat. Your child may also have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath of breathing with his mouth open and tongue out
  • Harsh and raspy breathing
  • Drooling because he cannot swallow
  • Pain when he swallows
  • Hoarse or muffled voice
  • Restlessness and anxiousness

How is acute epiglottitis treated?

Antibiotic medicine may be used to treat the infection. Your child's healthcare provider may need to put a breathing tube in your child's nose or throat to help him breathe easier.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • ET tube: Your child may need an endotracheal (ET) tube to help him breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ET tube will be taken out when your child is breathing better.

What are the risks of acute epiglottitis?

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.

How can I prevent acute epiglottitis from happening again?

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help 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 a blue, gray, or white color.
  • Your child faints.

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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