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Epiglottitis is inflammation of the tissue that covers the trachea (windpipe). It is a life-threatening disease.
See also: Croup
The epiglottis is a piece of stiff, yet flexible tissue (called cartilage) at the back of the tongue. It closes your windpipe (trachea) when you swallow so food does not enter your airways. This helps prevent coughing or choking after swallowing.
Swelling of the epiglottis is usually caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae). It may also be caused by other bacteria or viruses related to upper respiratory infections.
Epiglottitis is now very uncommon, because the H. influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine is a routine childhood immunization. The disease was once most often seen in children ages 2 - 6. Rarely, epiglottitis can occur in adults.
Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies: Upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 166.
Burns JE, Hendley JO. Epiglottitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 59.
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