Epiglottitis Treatment

  • Treatment

    If the inflammation of epiglottitis closes your airway entirely, you will need a tube to help you breathe. It is essential to maintain an adequate airway if your throat closes off. If the airway does become blocked, you will be intubated—an airway tube will be slid up the nose, down the back of the throat, and into the windpipe. Intubation generally requires anesthesia to reduce pain, and to prevent the gag reflex. The tube is normally required until you have been stable for 24 to 48 hours, when antibiotics have reduced the inflammation. After the inflammation subsides and the tube is removed, the throat may be sore for a few weeks.

    Because airway obstruction in children is unpredictable, many physicians will intubate a child as a precaution before complete obstruction has occurred. Adults with epiglottitis have less risk of complete airway obstruction, and are usually monitored closely and only intubated if necessary.

    A tracheotomy may be performed instead of intubation. In a tracheotomy, a hole will be made in the throat to allow air to pass into the windpipe. Because it is a surgical operation and has the potential for significant side effects (e.g., scarring, damaging the vocal cords), a tracheotomy is usually only performed in emergency situations when intubation is not an option.

    A tracheotomy is not permanent. After the infection clears, the hole will close up. Several weeks after the tracheotomy, all that will be left is a scar.

    Table 2.  When to Seek Medical Attention

    If you or your child experience a sore throat and any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
    Difficulty breathing
    Progressive hoarseness
    Refusal to swallow
    Unexplained drooling
    High fever (>104?F or 40?C)
    Headache, joint aches, or chest pain

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    In emergency situations, a tracheotomy may be performed to open the airway. A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure in which a hole is made in the throat to allow air to reach the windpipe. Because it is a surgical operation and has the potential for significant side effects (e.g., scarring, damaging the vocal cords), a tracheotomy is usually only performed in emergency situations when intubation is not an option. A tracheotomy is not permanent; the hole will be allowed to close up once the infection has cleared.

    Prompt treatment usually results in complete recovery. As long as the airway can be kept open long enough for the antibiotics to work, complete recovery should occur within a few weeks of treatment. The residual soreness caused by intubation normally subsides within two weeks after the tube is removed. If a tracheotomy is performed, the surgical opening may take several weeks to heal.

    Take your entire regimen of medication, and take simple steps at home to promote recovery. It is essential that you complete your entire regimen of medication, even if you have some left over once you start feeling better.

    You can use a cool-mist humidifier at night for two to three weeks after being in the hospital to help ease discomfort. In addition, you should drink extra fluids and follow a normal diet after you return home.

    You should resume activities gradually once all your symptoms have disappeared.

    Once the initial inflammation subsides and the bacterial infection is eradicated, follow-up is generally not necessary.

Recommended Reading

Meet the Pharmacists

I'm Kristen Dore, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

Check out my latest blog post on heartburn medication

Epiglottitis Related Drugs

    Epiglottitis Related Conditions