The signs of epiglottitis usually develop quickly and get rapidly worse.
- A severe sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Pain when swallowing
- Breathing that sounds high-pitched (stridor) and abnormal
- A high temperature
- Irritability and restlessness
- Muffled or hoarse voice
The primary symptoms of epiglottitis in young children are hoarse voice, breathing difficulties, and stridor, and in adults, swallowing difficulties and drooling are the main symptoms.
An infection of Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria usually causes epiglottitis. Hib can cause several serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and meningitis. The spreading process is similar to a cold or flu. You catch the infection by breathing in the droplets or touching the surface and then touching your face or mouth.
Fewer causes of epiglottitis include:
- Other bacterial infections – streptococcus pneumonia (a common cause of pneumonia)
- Fungal infections
- Viral infections – varicella-zoster virus and the herpes simplex virus
- Trauma to the throat
The first thing to do is secure the person’s airways to ensure they can breathe properly. The medical team will give an oxygen mask to supply highly concentrated oxygen to the person’s lungs.
If there’s an urgent need, the doctor may make a small cut in the neck to insert a tube for an oxygen supply. This process is called a tracheostomy. Antibiotics treat any underlying infection, and you’ll go home within five to seven days.
Getting the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine prevents epiglottitis caused by Hib.
Infants should get a vaccination against Hib as part of the six-in-1 DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine, which shields against hepatitis B, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, and polio. They should receive three doses of the vaccine: at eight weeks, twelve weeks, and sixteen weeks of age, following an additional Hib C “booster” vaccine at one year of age.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 04 October 2022