Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment of epiglottis involves first making sure you or your child can breathe, and then treating any identified infection.

Helping you breathe

The first priority in treating epiglottitis is ensuring that you or your child is receiving enough air. This may mean:

  • Wearing a mask. The mask delivers oxygen to the lungs.
  • Having a breathing tube placed into the windpipe through the nose or mouth (intubation). The tube must remain in place until the swelling in your or your child's throat has decreased — sometimes for several days.
  • Inserting a needle into the trachea (needle tracheostomy). In extreme cases or if more conservative measures fail, the doctor may need to create an emergency airway by inserting a needle directly into an area of cartilage in your or your child's trachea. This procedure allows air into your lungs while bypassing the larynx.

Treating infection

If your epiglottitis is related to an infection, intravenous antibiotics will be given once you or your child is getting enough air.

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotic. Because of the need for quick treatment, rather than wait for the results of the blood and tissue cultures, you or your child is likely to be treated with a broad-spectrum drug.
  • More targeted antibiotic. The drug may be changed later, depending on what's causing the epiglottitis.
Oct. 02, 2012