Epiglottitis is severe swelling of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a flap-like tissue located in the throat. During swallowing, the epiglottis folds over the windpipe and vocal chords to prevent food and liquids from entering the lungs. Swelling can quickly seal off a person’s airway and make breathing difficult.

Epiglottitis is rare and requires immediate medical attention. If you think you, your child, or someone you know has epiglottitis, go to the emergency room right away.

The Throat
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Factors that can cause epiglottitis include:

  • Bacteria, viruses, and fungi , such as:
    • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)—the most common cause and the cause of the most deadly type of epiglottitis; not the same germ that causes the flu
    • Staphylococcus aureus —also the cause of skin infections, pneumonia, and blood infections
    • Streptococcus pneumoniae —also the cause of meningitis and pneumonia
    • Streptococcus A, B, and C—also the cause of strep throat and blood infections
    • Candida albicans —also the cause of yeast infections, diaper rash, and oral thrush
    • Varicella zoster —also the cause of chickenpox and shingles
  • Burns from hot liquids
  • Physical injury to the throat area
  • Crack cocaine