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Epiglottitis

Inflammation of the epiglottis at the back of the throat, usually associated with inflammation of surrounding tissue and severe swelling, which can block the air passages. It is caused by a bacterium, Haemophilus influenzae, and usually affects the whole larynx, with redness and swelling of the epiglottis as the principal symptoms. It is often associated with inflammation of the throat, but can occur independently. The symptoms are similar to those of pseudo-croup. Children with pseudo-croup are much less ill, however, and often do not have high temperatures. Swallowing a foreign body can also produce symptoms similar to those of an inflamed epiglottis. When the doctor examines the throat, which must be done very carefully because of possible blockage of the air passages, the epiglottis appears red and swollen. It is often necessary to ease respiratory problems by piercing the windpipe (tracheostomy); antibiotics are also used, on the basis of a culture from a throat smear. The prognosis is favourable if treatment begins in good time.

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