Epiglottis

An Overview

Epiglottitis is inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis. It’s often caused by an infection, but can also sometimes happen as a result of a throat injury. piglottitis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the epiglottis a small cartilage “lid” that covers your windpipe swells, blocking the flow of air into your lungs.
A number of factors can cause the epiglottis to swell burns from hot liquids, direct injury to your throat and various infections. The most common cause of epiglottitis in children in the past was infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the same bacterium that causes pneumonia, meningitis and infections in the bloodstream.

Epiglottitis can occur at any age. The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that sits beneath the tongue at the back of the throat. Its main function is to close over the windpipe (trachea) while you’re eating to prevent food entering your airway.
The epiglottis is located in the larynx and attached to the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone. Its movements are regulated by the passive pressure from the tongue as it pushes the food down the pharynx, as well as by the contractions of the aryepiglottic muscle. This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the epiglottis.

The most common signs are rapid onset of high fever, sore throat, inability to control secretions, classic tripod positioning, difficulty breathing, and irritability. Adults may have a more indolent presentation and may not require airway intervention (only about 11% of adults require intubation whereas most children do).

Symptoms in children

Symptoms usually appear and get worse quickly, although the progression of symptoms in older children and adults may take a few days to fully develop. The most common symptoms are:
• Fever
• Severe sore throat
• Abnormal, high-pitched sound when breathing in (stridor)
• Difficult and painful swallowing
• Drooling
• Anxious, restless behavior
• Feeling better when sitting up or leaning forward

Symptoms in adults

For adults, signs and symptoms may develop more slowly, over days rather than hours. Signs and symptoms may include:
• Severe sore throat
• Fever
• A muffled or hoarse voice
• Abnormal, high-pitched sound when breathing in (stridor)
• Difficulty breathing
• Difficulty swallowing
• Drooling

When to see a doctor

Epiglottitis is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know suddenly has trouble breathing and swallowing, call your local emergency number or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. Try to keep the person quiet and upright, because this position may make it easier to breathe. Don’t try to examine the person’s throat yourself. This can make matters worse.

Causes of Epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is caused by an infection or an injury.

Infection

In the past, a common cause of swelling and inflammation of the epiglottis and surrounding tissues was infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria. Hib is responsible for a number of serious conditions, the most common of which is meningitis. Hib is now much less common in developed countries due to Hib immunization in children.
Hib spreads through infected droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. It’s possible to harbor Hib in your nose and throat without becoming sick — though you still can spread the bacteria to others.
In adults, other bacteria and viruses also can cause inflammation of the epiglottis, including:
• Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), another bacterium that can cause meningitis, pneumonia, ear infection and blood infection (septicemia)
• Streptococcus A, B and C, a group of bacteria that can cause diseases ranging from strep throat to blood infection
• Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that causes skin infections and other diseases including pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome

Injury

Physical injury, such as a direct blow to the throat, can cause epiglottitis. So can burns from drinking very hot or caustic liquids.
You also may develop signs and symptoms similar to those of epiglottitis if you:
• Swallow a chemical that burns your throat
• Swallow a foreign object
• Smoke drugs, such as crack cocaine

Additionally, viruses such as those that cause shingles and chickenpox, along with those that cause respiratory infections, can also result in epiglottitis. Fungi, such as those that cause diaper rash or yeast infections, may also contribute to inflammation of the epiglottis.

Other causes of this condition include:
• smoking crack cocaine
• inhaling chemicals and chemical burns
• swallowing a foreign object
• burning your throat from steam or other sources of heat
• experiencing throat injury from trauma, such as a stabbing or gunshot wound

Diagnosis

Once you notice a few of the above-mentioned symptoms or you have certain emergency situations, it is fairly advisable to rush to a nearby hospital or emergency care unit and get diagnosed by a doctor or physician. The doctor may perform a series of test including:
• Imaging procedures like X-ray of the throat or chest to understand the extent and severity of the infection.
• Examination of the throat using a fibre optic tube.
• Throat and blood cultures to understand the cause of infection, i.e. whether it is viral or bacterial.

Treatment

Epiglottitis can also happen due to chemical burns or inhaling chemicals, smoking cocaine, burning throat from steam or other heat sources, swallowing foreign particles, a severe trauma due to some throat injury, stabbing or gunshot wound. People having a weakened immune system and lacking in proper vaccination are also susceptible to the infection. Treatment mostly involves monitoring the oxygen level in the body using the pulse oximetry device. The doctor may also provide intravenous fluids for nutrition and hydration and to ease up swallowing or he can prescribe strong antibiotics for the infection or anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the swelling.
• Once oxygen delivery to the lungs has been established, a breathing tube may be inserted through the nose and into the windpipe to make breathing more natural.
• Fluid levels are kept up through an intravenous drip (a needle inserted into a vein).
• Antibiotics may be given to fight off bacterial infection.

Prevention

• The most effective way to prevent your child getting epiglottitis is to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. Children are particularly vulnerable to a Hib infection because they have an underdeveloped immune system.
• Wash hands frequently, and avoid placing fingers in the eyes, nose and mouth.
• Take necessary precautions around people who are coughing and sneezing.
• Avoid injury to the throat from drinking hot liquids or smoking.

Hope this Symptoms and cure article will be helpful to all. Do not forget to share your valuable suggestions if any.

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