Treating epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is treated in hospital. The first thing the medical team will do is secure the person's airways, to make surethey can breathe properly.

Securing the airways

Anoxygen mask will be given to deliver highly concentrated oxygen to the person's lungs.

If this doesn't work, a tube will be placed in the patient's mouth and pushed past their epiglottis into the windpipe. The tube will be connected to an oxygen supply.

In severe cases, where there's an urgent need to secure the airways, a small cut may be made in the neck, at the front of the windpipe, so a tube can be inserted. The tube is then connected to an oxygen supply. This procedure is called a tracheostomy and it allows oxygen to enter the lungs while bypassing the epiglottis. An emergency tracheostomy can be carried out using local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic.

Once the airways have been secured and the person is able to breathe unrestricted, a more comfortable and convenient way of assisting breathing may be found. This is usually achieved by threading a tube through the nose and into the windpipe.

Fluids will be supplied through a drip into one of your veins, until the person is able to swallow.

Once this has been achieved and the situation is thought to be safe, some tests may be carried out, such as:

  • a fibre-optic laryngoscopy a flexible tube with a camera attached to one end (laryngoscope) is used to examine the throat
  • a throat swab to test for any bacteria or viruses
  • blood tests to check the number of white blood cells (ahigh number indicates there may an infection) andto identify any traces of bacteria or viruses in the blood
  • an X-ray or a computerised tomography (CT) scan sometimes usedto check the level of swelling

The underlying infection will then be treated with acourse of antibiotics ,and most people with epiglottitis are well enough to leave hospital afterfive to sevendays.

With prompt treatment, most people recover from epiglottitis after about a week and are usually well enough to leave hospital after five to seven days.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018