Inflammation of the epiglottis due to any cause—infectious or noninfectious—is what constitutes epiglottitis. If not treated by a Child Specialist in Lahore, epiglottitis can block the airway and can even be fatal. Read on to know more about epiglottitis, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment options:
What is epiglottitis?
Epiglottis is a small cartilage at the back of the tongue, over the windpipe that covers the windpipe at the time of swallowing to prevent choking. This epiglottis can swell secondary to injury or infection and in severe cases, can block the airway thus proving fatal.
Epiglottitis can occur at any age, but is more common in young children, especially males. In the times before h. influenza vaccination was routinely performed, influenza-induced-epiglottitis frequently affected young children especially those between the ages of 3 and 5 years. Thereafter, with extensive vaccination against this bug, the incidence of epiglottitis infection decreased by 99 percent, and only 1 case per 100,000 children occurred.
What are the symptoms of epiglottitis?
In young children, the symptoms of epiglottitis can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Prompt management is needed in such cases. These symptoms include:
- Fever greater than 100.4 °F
- Sore throat
- Stridor—high pitch sound on inhalation
- Restless baby
- Breathing difficulty
- Pain on swallowing
- Leaning forwards of the child to ease breathing
In older individuals, the symptoms of epiglottitis can develop over a few days’ time. The symptoms in older children and adults are:
- Muffled or hoarse sound
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain on swallowing
- Stridor is also seen in older individuals
What are the 4 Ds of epiglottitis?
These 4 D’s of epiglottitis are:
- Dysphagia: this is difficulty and pain on swallowing
- Distress: with epiglottitis there is difficulty in breathing and the baby is in distress
- Drooling: babies often have involuntary flow of saliva out of the mouth
- Dysphonia: this is the hoarseness of voice
What are the causes of epiglottitis?
Epiglottitis is caused by:
- H. influenza bacteria: this is the commonest cause of epiglottitis in children. Other than h. influenza, epiglottitis can be caused by streptococcus species. Influenza bacteria can also cause meningitis and pneumonia.
- Trauma: traumatic injuries such as physical blow, hot liquids and throat injuries are some other causes of inflammation of the epiglottis. Chemical burns and swallowing non-food objects are some other causes of traumatic injuries that can end up causing epiglottitis.
- Fungal infections: infections from fungal organisms can also cause epiglottitis. This is common in individuals with weakened immune system.
- Chemotherapy: epiglottitis can be a side-effect of another disease or strong medication such as chemotherapy.
- Smoking: drugs like crack cocaine and even electronic cigarettes can damage the epiglottis.
- Viral infections: like bacteria and fungi, viral infections can also result in inflammation of the epiglottis.
- Being unvaccinated: is another risk factor and cause of epiglottitis. The most important vaccination for prevention of epiglottitis is that against h. influenza.
How is epiglottitis diagnosed?
The diagnosis of epiglottitis is made through a thorough physical and clinical examination, in addition to the following investigations:
Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, causing inflammation and soreness of the throat. Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
- Blood tests
- Blood culture
- Imaging tests
What are the complications of epiglottitis?
The complications of epiglottitis include:
- Spread of infection: the infection that causes inflammation of the epiglottis can spread to other parts of the body, especially the upper respiratory tract and cause diseases such as pneumonia. Other infections secondary to epiglottitis include meningitis and sepsis.
- Breathing difficulties: acute or sudden swelling of the epiglottis can block the airway, as the epiglottis is located just above the windpipe. This can produce sudden difficulty in breathing, especially in young children and can be life-threatening if the oxygen saturation drops very low.
How can epiglottitis be treated?
Acute epiglottitis with breathing difficulty is a medical emergency. Patients must be taken to the emergency room if the symptoms worsen suddenly. The treatment of epiglottitis is centered around:
- Improving the airflow: the airflow is restored through
- Oxygen mask
- Intubation or tube placed directly into the windpipe through the mouth
- Needle cricothyroidotomy
- Treating the infection: healthcare providers at Child Specialist in Islamabad ensure that the infection causing epiglottitis is treated through the medication. Quick acting intravenous (IV) antibiotics are given to combat the infection.