What is the Epiglottis? What is the function of the Epiglottis?
Epiglottis is generally a flap of cartilage (leaf-shaped) that is located behind the tongue present at the top of the larynx (voice box). The primary function of the epiglottis is to seal off the windpipe while eating to prevent the food from being accidentally inhaled.
Glottis vs Epiglottis
Glottis is an opening that is present between the vocal folds or the rima glottidis. The epiglottis, on the other hand, is normally a flap that is made of elastic cartilage and covered with a mucous membrane. It is attached to the entrance of the larynx.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Epiglottitis:
The diagnosis and treatment procedures for epiglottitis are as follows:
Prior to the treatment:
- Physical observations and medical history of the patient are reviewed by the doctor in an emergency care setting
- You may be asked to be admitted based on your situation
- X-rays of throat and chest are performed based on the severity of inflammation as well as the infection
- Blood as well as throat cultures are taken to determine the cause – either by bacteria or virus or other reasons
- Examination of throat is done by fiber optic tube
During the Treatment:
- Oxygen levels are monitored using the pulse oximetry device in order to protect your airway
- Supplemental oxygen will be provided if blood oxygen is very low with the help of a breathing tube or by mask
- Your doctor might give you intravenous fluids for nutrition as well as hydration until you’re once again able to swallow
- Doctor may prescribe antibiotics in order to treat a known or bacterial infection that is suspected
- Other anti-inflammatory medication like corticosteroids are advised to be taken in order to reduce the swelling in throat
- Tracheostomy which is a surgical procedure with the help of a small incision made between the rings of trachea to allow the exchange of oxygen and to prevent respiratory failure are done in severe cases.
- Cricothyroidotomy is done in severe cases too, where an incision with the help of a needle. It is inserted into the trachea which is just below the Adam’s apple to allow the exchange of oxygen.
Post-treatment, Recovery and Prevention:
- Starting at 2 months of age, your doctor may advise for your child to receive two to three doses of the Hib vaccine
- Frequent hand washing with alcohol sanitizer in order to prevent germs will be suggested
- Your doctor may advise you to avoid drinking from the same cup that other people uses and also suggests you to share food or utensils
- Maintaining good immune health like eating healthy foods, avoiding smoking and also getting adequate rest will also be suggested by your doctor
Who is at risk for epiglottitis?
Several factors which increase the risk of developing the condition are as follows:
- Age: Both children and adults can develop the condition. Children who are younger than 12 months of age are usually at a very high risk for developing the medical condition. Children are prone to the condition since they haven’t yet completed the Hib vaccine series. In an overall scenario, this disease can commonly occur in children ages 2 to 6 years as well as in adults who are older than 85 years are at a risk factor.
- Sex: Usually, males are the ones who are most likely to get the condition than females. The reason for this is unclear
- Environment: The risk of epiglottitis is high for people in heavily populated environments like schools or even child care centers which may increase the chance of getting an epiglottitis and also get all types of respiratory infections.
- Weakened Immune System: People with weak immune systems can develop the condition since it is very hard for their body to fight infections.
The most common symptoms of Epiglottitis in children are as follows:
- Very severe sore throat (throat closing up)
- Stridor (High pitched breathing sound)
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Restless and anxious behavior
- Feeling good when sitting up or bending forward
- Inflamed Uvula
- Swollen epiglottis
- Constant shortness of breath
The most common symptoms of Epiglottitis in adults are as follows:
- Sore throat and tongue (Painful swallowing)
- Hoarse voice
- Stridor in adults (High pitched breathing sound)
- Constant shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing and breathing
- Enlarged Uvula (Uvula touching tongue)
- Enlarged tongue
- Swollen epiglottis (epiglottis problems)
Some of the most common causes of epiglottitis are as follows:
Most common strain causing this medical condition is by Type B Haemophilus influenzae which is also known as Hib. You can generally catch Hib by inhaling the germs that is spread when the person coughs, sneezes, or actually blows their nose. Some of the other bacterial strains which can cause epiglottitis mainly include Streptococcus A, B, or C and especially Streptococcus pneumoniae. Streptococcus A is generally the type of bacteria which can also cause strep throat. While, on the other hand, Streptococcus pneumoniae is the common cause of pneumonia caused by bacteria.
Viruses that cause shingles as well as chickenpox can also cause epiglottitis Diaper rash or yeast caused by fungi can also inflame the epiglottitis
Some of the other causes include:
- Smoking crack cocaine
- Inhaling chemicals or chemical burns
- Swallowing a foreign object
- Burning throat by steam or heat
- Throat injury due to trauma like stabbing or gunshot wound
1. Why is my uvula swollen? How long does a swollen uvula last?
Infections usually lead to a swollen uvula. Other reasons include the common flu, mononucleosis, croup, and strep throat. A swollen uvula normally lasts anywhere from a few days to one week and a half based on the cause.
2. What is the difference between croup vs epiglottitis?
Croup is a medical condition which uncommonly causes severe obstruction of the airway and usually has a slow course. Epiglottitis, on the other hand, rapidly culminates in complete obstruction of the airway, shock and can usually be fatal.
3. How to reduce throat swelling?
Usually gargling with warm salt water helps to soothe the soreness of the throat and also help in breaking down secretions.
4. Why do I have pain in back of tongue when swallowing?
Though the real cause of it is still not known, the pain in the back of the tongue when swallowing is assumed to be a blood vessel that is often found compressing the nerve inside the skull.
5. Can you choke on your tongue?
Though it is impossible to swallow your own tongue and choke, it is very important however to monitor the situation in order to reduce the risk caused due to the injury.