Epiglottitis, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Complications

Body Health

Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, which is the valve that closes the airways when eating or drinking. Epiglottitis is generally caused by a bacterial infection or injury to the throat. The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped valve located behind the tongue. This valve functions to close the windpipe during the swallowing process, so that food or liquid does not enter the respiratory tract.


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Epiglottitis, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Complications

Epiglottis inflammation can occur in all age groups. However, this condition is most often experienced by children aged 2-5 years. Apart from children, people with weak immune systems, for example people with HIV/AIDS or cancer, are also susceptible to epiglottitis.

Causes of Epiglottitis

The main cause of epiglottitis is a bacterial infection. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) are the types of bacteria that most often trigger inflammation of the epiglottis.

These bacteria have the same way of spreading as the flu, namely through splashes of saliva or snot of sufferers who are accidentally inhaled.

Epiglottitis can also result from a fungal or viral infection. Apart from that, this condition can also be caused by injury to the throat, for example due to swallowing chemicals or sharp objects, consuming hot drinks, smoking, or hitting the throat.

Symptoms of Epiglottitis

Epiglottitis can cause symptoms in the form of:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Difficult to swallow
  • Snoring
  • Hoarseness
  • Geces
  • Hard to breathe
  • Fussy in children

In children, symptoms of epiglottitis can worsen rapidly, even within hours. Whereas in adults, the symptoms of this disease generally get worse slowly.

In addition to some of the above symptoms, people with epiglottitis tend to prefer to sit up straight with the body leaning forward. This position can make it easier for sufferers to breathe.

When to see a doctor

Because the symptoms are similar, epiglottitis is often considered croup, which is a viral infection of the throat and trachea. However, keep in mind that epiglottitis is more dangerous than croup.

Epiglottitis must be treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, the swollen epiglottis can cover the windpipe, blocking the supply of oxygen. This condition can cause death.

Seek immediate medical attention if you see someone showing symptoms of epiglottitis. It is important to remember, do not lay the patient in a supine position or check his throat without a medical officer. This can actually worsen the patient's condition.

Diagnosis of Epiglottitis

People suspected of having epiglottitis should be immediately taken to the hospital for emergency treatment. The first priority made by the doctor is to make sure the patient's respiratory tract is open. If needed, the doctor can install a breathing apparatus tube.

After ensuring that the patient's respiratory tract is smooth, the doctor can carry out further examinations to find out the cause, including:

  • Blood test, to see signs of infection
  • Epiglottis binoculars with nasoendoscope, to see the condition of the epiglottis
  • Epiglottis biopsy, which is taking and examining epiglottis tissue samples to see if there is a bacterial infection and changes in the tissue

The doctor can also do a chest or neck X-ray, as well as a CT scan or MRI, to check for other possible causes.

Treatment of Epiglottitis

To ensure that the respiratory tract remains open, one of the procedures doctors perform is to place a breathing tube (endotracheal intubation) through the mouth.

If the epiglottis is covering the windpipe and the airway is difficult to insert, the doctor will perform a tracheostomy, by making a hole in the patient's neck and threading a special instrument directly into the windpipe.

If the epiglottitis is caused by a bacterial infection, the ENT doctor will inject antibiotics. Initially, the doctor will give antibiotics that can kill many bacteria. After the results of the examination come out, the doctor can change antibiotics according to the type of bacteria that causes epiglottitis.

Apart from antibiotics, doctors can also give other medicines, for example corticosteroid drugs, to reduce swelling and inflammation in the throat.

Prevention of Epiglottitis

The main thing that needs to be done to prevent epiglottitis is to avoid Hib infection. Therefore, do Hib vaccination as the main prevention of epiglottitis. In Indonesia, the Hib vaccine is given together with DPT and hepatitis B.

This vaccine is given in four stages, namely when babies are 2, 3, 4, and 15-18 months old. For children who are coming for immunization for the first time at the age of 1-5 years, the Hib vaccine is only given once. Whereas for children over 5 years old, there is no need to be immunized.

Apart from vaccines, epiglottitis can be prevented by diligently washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer, and not sharing personal items with other people.

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