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Epiglottitis in Children


Epiglottitis is swelling of your child's epiglottis. The epiglottis is the flap of tissue that covers the opening to his windpipe. It opens when your child breathes and closes when he swallows. Epiglottitis in children is most commonly caused by a bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). It can also happen when your child breathes in very hot steam, certain chemicals, or smoke from a fire. When the epiglottis swells, it can block your child's airway. This condition is a medical emergency.


Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's fever or sore throat returns.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Steroids decrease swelling in your child's airway.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ask your child's healthcare provider about the Hib vaccine:

Ask your child's healthcare provider about the Hib vaccine. This vaccine helps prevent Hib infection and problems such as epiglottitis. Children usually get 3 or 4 doses of the vaccine starting at 2 months of age. Make sure your child gets any missed or scheduled doses.

Prevent the spread of infection:

Have your child cover his mouth when he sneezes or coughs. Have him wash his hands after he coughs, sneezes, or uses the bathroom. Ask your child's healthcare provider if he needs to stay away from other children. Also ask if you or other household members need antibiotic medicine to prevent epiglottitis.


Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

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

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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.

Learn more about Epiglottitis in Children (Discharge Care)

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Further information

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