You Are At: AllSands Home > Health > Diseases > What is epiglottitis?
Epiglottitis is a life threatening illness that occurs most often in children 2-7 years old with the highest incidence occuring at three years. It is a highly contagious infection of the epiglottis, the flap of tissue in the back of the throat that guards the entrance to the lungs. The onset of epiglottitis is abrupt and requires immediate medical attention. Fortunately, immunization against the flu has drasticaly decreased the incidence of epiglottitis.


The symptoms of epiglottitis include the following:

Sore throat
Difficulty breathing
Difficulty swallowing
Purple skin and nails, known as cyanosis
Stridor (a high-pitched noise made when inhaling)
Head tilted back trying to inhale more air


Epiglottitis is a bacterial infection which in most cases is caused by hemophilus influenza, pneumococcus, or streptococcus.


Before you get to the hospital, have your child sit up and keep him or her calm. Do not attempt to look at the back of your child's throat. Once at the hospital the staff will take a blood or throat culture and x-ray the neck. Your child will most likely require hospitalization for oxygen and monitoring. In some cases surgery is necessary to open the windpipe. After your child returns home from the hospital, use a cold-air humidifier and make sure he or she gets plenty of bed rest. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection or to prevent it from coming back.