Epiglottitis

Alternative Names

Supraglottitis

Definition of Epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is inflammation of the cartilage that covers the trachea (windpipe).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Epiglottitis is a life-threatening disease. The epiglottis is a piece of cartilage at the back of the tongue. Its job is to close off the windpipe when swallowing. It keeps food from entering the airways, so you don’t cough or choke after swallowing.

Symptoms

Epiglottitis begins with a high fever and sore throat. Other symptoms may include:

Signs and tests

Epiglottitis is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical help. Do not use a tongue depressor (tongue blade) to try to examine the throat at home, as this may make the condition worse.

Treatment

The patient will be admitted to the hospital, usually an intensive care unit (ICU).

Expectations (prognosis)

Epiglottitis can be a life-threatening emergency. However, with proper treatment, the outcome is usually good.

Review

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 1/29/2010

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Throat anatomy
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ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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