Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sore Throat or Epiglottitis?

Sore throats are a prevalent symptom of the common cold or flu. A sore throat can also be caused by tonsillitis, laryngitis, post-nasal drip and even ear pain. Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary also notes that patients with sore throats will often complain of secondary symptoms such as a cough, and can sometimes have difficulty swallowing foods and liquids. Typically, a sore throat will go away within a week – either on its own or with a course of antibiotics depending on whether or not it is caused by a bacterial infection (such as strep throat.) 

Epiglottitis seen in x-ray imaging
Normally, a sore throat is not something to worry about. However, if your pain is extreme, you have a hoarse voice, a high temperature, and are in severe discomfort when swallowing, you may have a condition known as epiglottitis. Epiglottitis occurs when the epiglottis itself becomes inflamed. The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped flat that sits just behind your tongue and is responsible for keeping food from entering your windpipe, and also allows air to pass from your mouth and into your lungs. With epiglottitis, the epiglottis can become so inflamed that your breathing can be affected due to the airway becoming obstructed, which can lead to death.

While epiglottitis can affect individuals of all ages, it most commonly affects children between the ages of 2 and 5. However, developing epiglottitis is extremely rare. Still, Dr. Ali Ghahary urges all individuals to seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of an unusually sore throat or any symptoms that are associated with epiglottitis as mentioned above.

In confirmed cases of epiglottitis, a patient will usually be given oxygen via a mask. If you need more help with breathing, you may need to be hospitalized so that a ventilator may be inserted to better maintain the flow of oxygen into the lungs. In severe cases, if the epiglottis becomes completely blocked, a procedure known as a tracheotomy will need to be performed. A tracheotomy is when a small cut is made into the windpipe, which then allows a tube to be passed underneath the swollen area so enough oxygen can be given. In addition, antibiotics are also commonly used to fight epiglottitis and treat the underlying infection, as well as steroids to help reduce inflammation. If treated quickly, the prognosis is generally good. Rarely does the infection related to epiglottitis spread to other parts of the body, and the likelihood of epiglottitis recurring is very low.

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