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Tracheitis

Tracheitis is a bacterial infection of the windpipe (trachea).

Causes

Bacterial tracheitis is most often caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It often follows a viral upper respiratory infection. It affects mostly young children. This may be due to their tracheas being smaller and more easily blocked by swelling.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Deep cough (similar to that caused by croup)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High fever
  • High-pitched breathing sound (stridor)

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and listen to the child's lungs. The muscles between the ribs may pull in as the child tries to breathe. This is called intercostal retractions.

Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:

Treatment

The child often needs to have a tube placed into the airways to help with breathing. This is called an endotracheal tube.

The child will receive antibiotics through a vein. The health care team will closely monitor the child's breathing and use oxygen, if needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With prompt treatment, the child should recover.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Tracheitis is an emergency medical condition. Go to the emergency room right away if your child has had a recent upper respiratory infection and suddenly has a high fever, a cough that gets worse, or trouble breathing.

Alternative Names

Bacterial tracheitis; Acute bacterial tracheitis

References

Cukor J, Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies: Upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds.Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice

Duncan NO. Infections of the airway in children. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds.Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery.

Update Date 11/25/2014

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