Epiglottitis is a variant form of the croup syndrome.


Epiglottitis is a variant form of the croup syndrome. It is a rapidly progressing inflammation of the epiglottis - the flap at the base of the tongue - which is most commonly caused by the Haemophilus influenza type b bacterium. It causes high fever, breathing problems, throat pain and difficulty swallowing, among other things. There is usually no cough. Vaccination is urgently recommended and is included in the Swiss vaccination schedule.


  • Generally, rapid onset of symptoms within a few hours
  • Sudden high fever (usually more than 39 degrees)
  • Impaired general health
  • Sore throat
  • Muffled speech
  • Excessive salivation
  • Usually no cough
  • Whistling sounds when breathing in
  • Pain and difficulty when swallowing
  • Swelling of throat
  • Shortness of breath
    • The infection can often be quite severe and is highly contagious
    • Fast and difficult breathing
    • Sign of a lack of oxygen: bluish discolouration of the lips (cyanosis)
    • Skin and muscles around the ribs get sucked in when breathing
  • Racing heart, low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Finally, cardiovascular arrest

Causes and treatment


  • Caused by the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacterium, more rarely by various other bacteria
  • The toxin released by the pathogen causes inflammation and swelling in the throat and around the entrance to the larynx
  • Can occur at any age, in particular in older people, people who have not been vaccinated and people whose vaccination failed

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Diagnosis is primarily based on the symptoms
  • For children, avoid all stress and manipulation
  • Examination of the larynx, if necessary (only if artificial respiration is possible)
Possible therapies
  • Supply of oxygen
  • Intensive monitoring in hospital
  • Antibiotics are essential
  • Intravenous cortisone
  • Inhalation of adrenaline
  • Intubation, if necessary (artificial respiration)

What can I do myself?

  • Most important measure against epiglottitis: vaccination
    • Standard vaccination included in the Swiss vaccination schedule
    • Combination vaccine against many diseases/pathogens
    • Urgently recommended
  • Epiglottitis requires emergency medical treatment (initiate emergency treatment)
  • Comfortable sitting position makes breathing easier until the arrival of the emergency services

When to see a doctor?

  • High fever (above 38 degrees)
  • Signs of shortness of breath
    • Skin and muscles around the ribs get sucked in when breathing
    • Bluish discolouration of the lips (cyanosis)
    • Fear of suffocation
  • Muffled speech and rattling when breathing out
  • Excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing
  • Significantly accelerated pulse
  • Disorientation
  • Severe throat pain, with painful swelling


epiglottitis, larynx inflammation, acute bacterial laryngitis, croup syndrome, subglottic laryngitis

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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