Skip to Content




is swelling of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is the flap of tissue at the back of your tongue. The epiglottis opens when you breathe and closes when you swallow so that no food goes down your airway. Epiglottitis is commonly caused by a bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). It can also happen when you breathe in steam, certain chemicals, or smoke from a fire. When the epiglottis swells, it can block your airway. This can cause problems breathing and in severe cases can block your breathing completely. This condition is a medical emergency.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

Epiglottitis often begins with a fever and severe sore throat. You may also have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or breathing faster than usual
  • Feeling like you need to breathe with your mouth open and tongue out
  • Harsh and raspy breathing
  • Drooling and trouble swallowing
  • Pain when you swallow
  • Hoarse or muffled voice
  • Feeling restless or anxious

Call 911 or have someone else call if:

  • You feel short of breath or are breathing faster than usual.
  • You have harsh, raspy breathing.
  • You need to breathe with your mouth open and tongue out.
  • Your lips, skin, or fingernails are blue, gray, or white.
  • You lose consciousness or stop breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a fever, severe pain in your throat, and trouble swallowing.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Prevent epiglottitis:

Ask your healthcare provider if you need the Hib vaccine. This vaccine helps prevent Hib infection and problems such as epiglottitis. The Hib vaccine may be given to an adult who did not get the vaccine during childhood. It may also be given to an adult who has risk factors for infection. Risk factors include sickle cell disease, HIV infection, chemotherapy treatment, or a bone marrow transplant.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

© 2018 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.