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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.


Informed consent

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

Emotional support:

Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.

An endotracheal tube

helps your child breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and into his airway. Your child may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your child's airway. An ET tube or trach may be connected to a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that gives your child oxygen and breathes for him when he cannot breathe well on his own.

IV fluids

help prevent or treat dehydration.


  • A heart monitor is an EKG that stays on all the time to record your child's heart's electrical activity.
  • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. The device is a sticker or clip applied to your child's finger or toe.


  • Antibiotics help treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Steroids help decrease swelling in your child's throat.
  • Sedatives help your child feel calm and relaxed.


  • Blood and urine tests are used to check for infection and get information about your child's overall health.
  • Blood gases are used to measure the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. These tests are also called arterial blood gases (ABGs). Blood is usually taken from an artery in your child's wrist.
  • X-ray pictures may show swelling in your child's epiglottis or the tissues in his airway.
  • A laryngoscopy is a procedure used to look for swelling in your child's throat. Your child's healthcare provider may swab his epiglottitis during this procedure. The swab will be sent to the lab and tested for infection.


Bacteria may spread to your child's ears, lungs, or brain. These problems may become life-threatening.


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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

© 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 CareNotes® 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 in Children (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

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