Epiglottitis (or supraglottitis), is an infection of the epiglottis; a protective flap of cartilage that covers the voice box. The infection occurs when a bacteria invades the epiglottis and other tissues, which in turn causes swelling and tenderness. The serious danger of this condition is that the airway can become blocked.
Fortunately, epiglottitis is rare these days, thanks to the HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine which began in 1988. Most infants are now immunised prior to their first birthday.
Although mostly eliminated, there are still rare cases in children who do not receive the HiB vaccine and in children who have a weakened immune system.
Epiglottitis begins with a very painful sore throat and quickly progresses to a high fever and laboured breathing. Epiglottitis can be life threatening, so if you notice these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. If you suspect that you child may have epiglottitis then take him or her to the emergency room immediately. Crying can make it harder for your child to breathe so it’s important to keep him or her calm. Your child will be admitted to the hospital for evaluation and treatment if the doctor suspects he or she has epiglottitis.
If your child is diagnosed with epiglottitis, a breathing tube will be inserted and he will be hospitalised until the infection is under control.