Epiglottitis Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Apr 05, 2022
  • Author: Sandra G Gompf, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
  • Print

Diagnostic Considerations

Clinician familiarity with epiglottitis has lessened in the post-Hib vaccination era, which may lead to less acumen in the diagnosis of this potentially deadly disorder. Efforts toward continued diligence in promptly making this diagnosis are therefore warranted, particularly in the adult patient, for whom epiglottitis has many possible causes other than Haemophilus influenzae type b. [20]

Depending on the clinical setting, it may be risky to send the patient off-unit for radiologic studies, and direct visualization of the epiglottis may precipitate respiratory obstruction. Rapid diagnosis may depend on the examination and those tests that can be performed quickly at the bedside.

Other conditions to consider in the evaluation of acute epiglottitis include the following:

  • Acute angioedema

  • Airway obstruction

  • Bacterial laryngotracheobronchitis

  • Caustic ingestion

  • Thermal injury from liquids or hot air (burns)

  • Foreign body aspiration

  • Laryngeal diphtheria

  • Laryngitis

  • Laryngotracheal bronchopneumonitis

  • Peritonsillar abscess

  • Retropharyngeal abscess

  • Sepsis

See also Pediatric Epiglottitis and Emergent Management of Pediatric Epiglottitis.

Differential Diagnoses