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Epiglottitis – Treatment and Prevention of Epiglottitis

If the person is suspected to be suffering from epiglottitis, the first step to ensure is that the airway is open and enough oxygen is getting through. To treat epiglottitis, the oxygen levels are monitored. Once the condition of the person remains stable, the doctor may advice following tests –

  • Throat examination – The infected throat is examined to see the cause for the symptoms. The examination is done using a flexible fiber-optic tube.
  • Chest or neck X-ray – The infection results in sudden breathing problems. In this case, the airways are protected and then an X-ray is taken.
  • Throat culture and blood tests – A tissue sample is collected using a cotton swab near the epiglottis. This sample is tested for Hib. The blood samples are also checked for the bacteria causing this disease.

After undergoing the above mentioned tests, epiglottitis is treated in the following way –

Helping the affected person breathe

Ensure that the child is receiving enough air to breathe. Provide the oxygen into the windpipe through the mouth or nose using oxygen mask and the tube. This has to be remained as such until the swelling and inflammation is decreased.

In extreme cases, where the person is not getting enough oxygen, a procedure called tracheotomy is done. In this method, a needle is inserted into the area of cartilage in the person’s trachea. The air passes through this needle.

Treating the infection

The doctor may suggest intravenous antibiotics to the infected person. The antibiotics are given until the breathing becomes free. The person is treated with a broad-spectrum drug till the results of throat culture and blood tests are known. Later the antibiotic may be changed depending upon the cause of epiglottitis.

Prevention of Epiglottitis

The effective way to prevent epiglottitis in children younger than age 5 is to immunize them with the Hib vaccine. The vaccine is given in four doses i.e

  • At 2 months of age
  • At 4 months of age
  • At 6 months of age
  • At 12-15 months of age

Children above the age of five and adults cannot be treated by giving the Hib vaccine as they are not prone to the Hib infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Hib vaccine for the older children and adults whose immune system is weakened by:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Chemotherapy
  • Spleen removal
  • Medications to prevent rejection of bone marrow and organ transplants

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