DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
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Epiglottitis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the epiglottis — a small cartilage "lid" that covers your windpipe — swells, blocking the flow of air into your lungs.
A number of factors can cause the epiglottis to swell — burns from hot liquids, direct injury to your throat and various infections. The most common cause of epiglottitis in children in the past was infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the same bacterium that causes pneumonia, meningitis and infections in the bloodstream. Epiglottitis can occur at any age.
Routine Hib vaccination for infants has made epiglottitis rare, but epiglottitis remains a concern. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has epiglottitis, seek emergency help immediately. Prompt treatment can prevent life-threatening complications.
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