Causes Of Swollen Epiglottis: Symptoms And Treatment Options

Epiglottitis or swelling of the epiglottis is a life-threatening disorder which occurs when the epiglottis, which covers the windpipe, gets inflamed and swollen, thereby occluding air flow in to the lungs.

Various factors can trigger epiglottitis – burns from a hot liquid, trauma to the throat and infections. In children, the commonest cause was infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), which is also known to cause meningitis, pneumonia, and infections in the blood.

Symptoms Of Swollen Epiglottis

Symptoms in children:

  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling of saliva
  • Severe sore throat
  • Swallowing is painful
  • Symptoms better on sitting up or leaning forwards.
  • High-pitched, abnormal sound when the child breathes.

Symptoms in adults:

  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sever pain on swallowing.
  • Severe sore throat hoarseness of the voice.
  • Abnormal, high-pitched sound whilst breathing.

What Causes A Swollen Epiglottis?

  • The commonest cause is infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria. Hib is transmitted via infected droplets sneezed or coughed in to the air.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae is another important causative organism for swelling of the epiglottis.
  • Streptococcus A, B and C.
  • Trauma or injury to the epiglottis, such as, a direct blow to the throat, is an important cause.
  • Drinking very hot liquids may also cause the epiglottis to swell and get inflamed.
  • Another cause, though rare is, when you swallow a chemical which burns your throat.
  • Swallowing a foreign body.
  • Smoking drugs, like, crack cocaine.

Treatment Options For Swollen Epiglottis

The treatment regimen for epiglottis comprises of, first and foremost making sure the individual can breathe easily, and then treating the infection.

  • Wearing a mask is recommended in case the breathing is very difficult. The mask will deliver oxygen in to your lungs.
  • Some experts advocate placing a breathing tube in to your windpipe through the nose or mouth. The tube should be kept in place till the inflammation and swelling has subsided altogether.
  • Introducing a needle in to the trachea is needed in really extreme cases or in case the conservative measures fail to bring any respite. Your health care provider may need to create an emergency airway by introducing a needle directly in to an area of cartilage in the trachea. This helps the air go in to your lungs while bypassing the larynx.
  • If the condition is due to an infection, anti-biotic needs to be administered.
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics: Speed is of essence, and there should not be any waste of time or neglect; rather than wait for the results of the blood culture, your doctor may start with a broad-spectrum anti-biotic.
  • More targeted antibiotic: After embarking up on the broad spectrum antibiotics, after the precise cause has been ascertained; your physician may change the anti-biotic based on the offending microbe.
  • In case of trauma, your doctor will order a few tests and investigations to understand the extent of damage and provide anti-inflammatory agents and analgesics.

Along with the conventional therapy, natural remedies are also beneficial, more so, for babies and children. Essential oils such as Eucalyptus and tea tree oil are of immense use. They ease breathing, battle infection and soothe the respiratory tract. You could use the oils in the form of compresses or you could inhale the vapors.

One spoon of powdered turmeric blended with one spoon of honey, 3 to 5 times a day provides significant relief from most of the symptoms.

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