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Inflammation of the epiglottis that tends to cause airway obstruction, this disease typically strikes children between ages 2 and 8. 

Epiglottitis sometimes follows an upper respiratory infection and may rapidly progress to complete upper airway obstruction within 2 to 5 hours.  An emergency, epiglottitis can prove fatal in &% to 12% of victims unless it's recognized and treated promptly.

Epiglottis, the lid like cartilaginous structure overhanging the entrance to the larynx, guarding it during swallowing .

A number of factors can cause your epiglottis to swell, including burns from hot liquids, a direct injury to your throat, and various viral and bacterial infections. But the most common cause is infection with Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), the same bacteria that causes pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.

Epiglottitis can affect anyone, from newborns to older adults. The incidence of the disease has decreased remarkably since the introduction in 1985 of an effective Hib vaccine that's given to children starting in the second month of life.

Even adults who haven't received the vaccine are less likely to develop the disorder, simply because epiglottitis is no longer as prevalent in the general population. Still, epiglottitis remains a real concern. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has epiglottitis, get emergency help immediately. Epiglottitis can be fatal, but with prompt and appropriate treatment, the prognosis is usually good.

Signs and symptoms

Epiglottitis caused by Hib infection usually begins with a fever and severe sore throat. Within a matter of hours, other signs and symptoms may develop, such as:

  • Difficult and painful swallowing (dysphagia).

  • Difficulty breathing. You may need to sit on your hands with your head bent forward in order to get enough air.

  • Drooling due to severe pain when swallowing.

  • A muffled voice.

  • Stridor — a harsh, raspy sound that occurs when your airways are blocked.

  • An anxious appearance.

  • Blue skin or lips (cyanosis).


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:30 AM