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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is epiglottitis?

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.

What are the signs and symptoms of epiglottitis?

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

How is epiglottitis treated?

You will need antibiotic medicine to treat the infection. You may need to stay overnight in the hospital for treatment or monitoring. In severe cases, you may need a ventilator to help you breathe.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I prevent epiglottitis from happening again?

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.

How can I prevent the spread of epiglottitis?

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.


When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Learn more about Epiglottitis

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Symptoms and treatments

Further information

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