Conditions that cause epiglottitis include infectious, chemical, and traumatic agents. Infectious is the most common. H influenzae type b was once the most common cause prior to vaccination. Currently, other organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi are the causes, especially among adults.
Organisms that can cause epiglottitis include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus parainfluenzae, varicella-zoster (shingles), herpes simplex virus type 1 (oral herpes), and Staphylococcus aureus, among others.
Other types of epiglottitis that are environmental and not caused by infection include heat damage that may injure the epiglottis, called thermal epiglottitis. Thermal epiglottitis occurs from drinking hot liquids, eating solid foods, or using illicit drugs such as inhalation of metal pieces from crack cocaine pipes or the tip of marijuana cigarettes. In these cases the epiglottitis from thermal injury is similar to the illness caused by infection.
In very rare instances, epiglottitis may be caused by allergic reactions to food, insect stings or bites, or blunt trauma to the neck or throat.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014
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