Epiglottitis 

Introduction 

The most effective way to protect your child against epiglottitis is to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date 

Who is affected

Epiglottitis is rare in the UK. During 2011-12, fewer than 600 people were admitted to hospitals in England with the condition.

In the past epiglottitis was most common in children between the ages of two and four, but since the introduction of the Hib vaccine, most cases now occur in adults. In England during 2011-12, the average age of people admitted to hospital with the condition was 53.

Deaths from epiglottitis are also rare, occurring in less than 1 in 100 cases.

Epiglottitis is inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis. In most cases it is caused by infection.

The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that sits beneath the tongue at the back of the throat. Its main function is to close over the windpipe (trachea) while you're eating to prevent food from entering your airways.

Symptoms of epiglottitis usually develop rapidly and include a severe sore throat, breathing difficulties, drooling and difficulty swallowing.

A swollen epiglottis can be very serious as it can restrict the oxygen supply to your lungs. Epiglottitis is therefore regarded as a medical emergency.

Dial 999 to request an ambulance if you think you or your child has epiglottitis.

While waiting for an ambulance you should not attempt to examine your child's throat, place anything inside their mouth or lay them on their back because this may make their symptoms worse. It's important to keep them calm and to try not to cause panic or distress.

Epiglottitis can be fatal if the throat becomes completely blocked. However, with appropriate treatment most people make a full recovery.

Treating epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is treated in hospital. The first thing the medical team will do is make sure airways are clear and your child is able to breathe. Once this has been achieved, the underlying infection will be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Most people with epiglottitis are well enough to leave hospital after 5-7 days.

Read more about treating epiglottitis.

Why it happens

Epiglottitis is usually caused by an infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria, although it can also be caused by other types of bacteria or injury.

Since the 1990s, a vaccination against Hib bacteria has been routinely offered for young children. This has significantly reduced the number of Hib infections in children and young adults and is the best way to prevent epiglottitis.

Read more about the causes of epiglottitis and preventing epiglottitis.

Page last reviewed: 19/06/2013

Next review due: 19/06/2015

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

kossett said on 25 April 2012

Hello i would like to know are there any operations to repair the epeglottis as mine is damaged thank you.

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