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Acute Epiglottitis


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


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you 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 medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.
  • Endotracheal (ET) tube: An endotracheal tube may be put into your mouth or nose. It goes down into your windpipe to help keep your airway open and help you breathe. It may be hooked to a ventilator (breathing machine), and you may get extra oxygen through your ET tube. You will not be able to talk while the ET tube is in place.
  • Laryngoscopy: A laryngoscopy is done to find out what is causing your breathing problems. Healthcare providers use a small soft tube with a light on the end or a metal tool to look at your epiglottis. Healthcare providers may give you medicine to numb or decrease feeling in your throat before the test.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Bronchodilators: You may need bronchodilators to help open the air passages in your lungs, and help you breathe more easily.
    • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier.
  • Neck x-ray: This is a picture of the inside of your neck. It may show the swollen area around the epiglottis.
  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe. The oxygen may be mixed with water vapor to help keep your airways and lungs moist.
  • Tracheostomy tube: If healthcare providers are not able to put in an ET tube into your nose or throat, a tracheotomy may be done. Healthcare providers cut a small hole in your throat and put a tracheostomy tube in your trachea (windpipe) so you can breathe better.


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


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

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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.