Epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is a variant form of the croup syndrome.

Overview

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.

Symptoms

  • 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
Complications
  • 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

Cause

  • 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

Synonyms

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

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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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