If you opened your news feed over the weekend, you were likely hit with some pretty scary health news from the celebrity world: Comedian, Sarah Silverman, was admitted to intensive care with Epiglottitis. Don’t worry, “What the heck is Epiglottitis?,” were my exact thoughts as well.
Thankfully, Epiglottitis is a fairy rare (particularly in adults) yet life-threatening condition that can occur over a period of days when the tiny cartilage flap (called the epiglottis), located at the base of the tongue, which covers the windpipe (or trachea) becomes inflamed and blocks air flow, according to Healthline.com. Silverman, like many patients, mistook this serious condition as mundane throat discomfort, the type that can occur with allergies, voice over-usage, or drinking a too hot beverage. Please note that the symptoms for Epiglottitis differ slightly for children and adults, and a Hib vaccine can be administered during childhood to help prevent the bacteria that causes most Epiglottitis cases in young children to occur…
The Mayo Clinic explains that Epiglottitis is a condition that can occur over a period of days in older children and adults (alternatively, it can come on suddenly in small children). This means you might feel a slight airway restriction, however, your life may not be in jeopardy until the epiglottis (which is that small flap of cartilage covering over your windpipe) swells completely.
Once this trachea covering swells completely, it can completely block any air flow to the lungs. However, patients may be reluctant to consider Epiglottitis a medical emergency since the symptoms can be gradual and flu-like (i.e., sore throat, difficulty swallowing, raspy voice, etc.).