Skip to Content



Epiglottitis 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.


Contact your healthcare provider if:

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


  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Steroids help decrease swelling in your airway.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ask your healthcare provider about the Hib vaccine:

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.

Prevent the spread of infection:

Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands after you cough, sneeze, or use the bathroom. Ask your healthcare provider if other family or household members need antibiotic medicine to prevent infection.


Follow up with your doctor as directed:

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

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Epiglottitis (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.