Epiglottitis: Symptoms and Treatment

Epiglottitis is a fairly rare disease of the ENT-sphere, which is characterized by a sharp violation of the patency of the respiratory tract due to the inflammatory process in the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a kind of valve that looks like a petal, between the trachea and the larynx. He participates in the process of breathing, and also prevents food from entering the trachea — closing, he directs the food into the esophagus. It is this property of the epiglottis that causes the fact that people can not swallow and breathe at the same time.

Often, this pathology is affected by small children aged 2-4 years, but also the disease can occur in children at an older age and even in adults. The inflammatory process in the epiglottis occurs sharply and is characterized by a rapid increase in symptoms, so treatment of the disease should be timely, otherwise there is a risk of stopping breathing and death in small and adult patients.


The main cause of acute epiglottitis is the bacterium of the family haemophilus influenzae type b. It is this type of bacteria that causes not only epiglottitis, but also diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. Since the introduction of immunization against this pathogen in 1985, the incidence of the disease among children and adults has declined significantly.

In the human body, the bacterium gets airborne, then it can settle in the mouth or nasopharynx and «doze» until the moment when favorable conditions for its reproduction are created.

Of course, not only the above described bacterium is capable of causing such a disease as epiglottitis. Pathogens can be:

  • fungus of the genus Candida
  • Streptococcus
  • varicella zoster is a causative agent of varicella;
  • Pneumococcus.

There are other causes of the disease. In particular, often the disease develops against the background of an epiglottis injury, or with burns, for example, when swallowing hot tea, etc.

The causes of the disease in adults can be such factors as:

  1. smoking;
  2. ingress of a foreign body into the respiratory tract
  3. chemical burn, in particular when using methyl alcohol, which is often confused with ethyl people with alcohol dependence
  4. Drug use (cocaine, heroin).

There are certain predisposing factors. So, boys and men are more often sick than girls and women. In addition, black people are exposed to infection with bacteria with the development of a disease such as epiglottitis more often than people of the white race.

A weak immune system or a temporary decrease in body protection causes rapid growth of bacteria and is also a predisposing factor to the development of this disease. And in densely populated cities the disease spreads faster, because it is transmitted by airborne droplets. Defeating the epithelium, bacteria penetrate into it, causing local edema and inflammation — this is what is characterized by this disease.


Usually the development of a disease, like epiglottitis, is preceded by any respiratory-viral infection. At the same time the course of this pathology is rapid — literally in a couple of hours, airway obstruction due to edema, and respiratory failure may develop.

The first symptoms that should be paid attention to the parents of the child and adults with this disease are:

  • a sudden increase in temperature;
  • difficulty swallowing
  • wheezing when breathing

Common symptoms of pathology are as follows:

  1. exhaustion;
  2. irritability;
  3. weakness;
  4. Anxiety.

Usually, when viewed, you can see a sore throat, and redness spreads to the entire throat, but more pronounced in the central part.

There are other symptoms that make it possible to suspect human epiglottitis. The child or adult is salivating, his voice becomes muffled and hoarse, breathing is difficult, and because of a lack of oxygen entering the blood, cyanosis of the lips occurs.

It is very important, before assigning a treatment, to diagnose this pathological condition with such pathologies as false cereal and true croup, as well as acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis.

There are three forms of this disease, such as epiglottitis. The first form is edematous, at which there is hyperthermia (an increase in body temperature to 39 degrees), sharp and severe sore throat, worse with swallowing, soreness in the neck region, which is determined by palpation, as well as symptoms of general intoxication.

The second form of the disease is infiltrative. In this case, the condition of patients is severe, and the following symptoms are noted:

  • dirty white plaque on the tongue
  • painful grimaces due to pain when swallowing
  • difficulty breathing;
  • thickening and hyperemia of the epiglottis, as seen with the naked eye
  • translucent pus through hyperemia mucosa
  • severe inspiratory dyspnea.

Even more severe condition in adults and children with the third form of this disease — abscessing.

If treatment of such a disease as epiglottitis is not started in time, complications develop, among them the most formidable is respiratory failure, the symptoms of which are known to everyone: rales at the entrance and exhalation, cyanosis of the lips, nasolabial triangle, fingertips and mucous membranes, loss Consciousness, convulsions. Death in this state can occur within a few hours.

Other complications can be:

  1. pneumonia;
  2. exudate pleurisy
  3. pericarditis, etc.


You can diagnose epiglottitis in children after a visual examination, in which clearly visible hyperemic and edematic epiglottis. In adults, the diagnosis is similar.

Treatment of this disease consists in providing the patient with emergency care, because without timely measures, complications can develop. Such treatment, first of all, involves the call of an ambulance or an independent transportation of a patient to a hospital, and the person should be transported only when sitting.

Treatment in the hospital is aimed at removing the swelling of the respiratory tract, destroying the bacteria that caused the pathology, and supporting the vital forces of the body.

Usually, urgent treatment consists in introducing the patient to such antibacterial drugs as:

  • amoxicillin;
  • ceftriaxone;
  • clavulanate.

The choice of antibiotic depends on the severity of the symptoms and the patient’s condition. In some cases, when symptoms of acute respiratory failure are noted, intubation of the trachea is indicated, with the introduction of medications. Also in a hospital, symptomatic treatment is performed — immunomodulating drugs are prescribed, and antioxidant therapy is administered.