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Bacterial Tracheitis


Rajeev Bhatia

, MD, Phoenix Children's Hospital

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020

Bacterial tracheitis is a serious infection of the windpipe (trachea) caused by bacteria.

Bacterial tracheitis is rare and can affect children of any age. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and streptococci are most frequently the cause. The infection develops suddenly and is characterized by a loud squeaking noise (stridor) when the child breathes in, high fever, and often large amounts of pus-filled secretions.

Rarely, bacterial tracheitis develops as a complication of croup or endotracheal intubation (insertion of a plastic breathing tube through the mouth or nose into the trachea—see Mechanical Ventilation).

Diagnosis of Bacterial Tracheitis

  • Laryngoscopy
  • Neck x-rays

A doctor bases the diagnosis of bacterial tracheitis on symptoms.

To confirm the diagnosis, a doctor examines the throat with a thin viewing tube (laryngoscope). X-rays often are taken of the neck to show the abnormalities that distinguish bacterial tracheitis from croup.

Treatment of Bacterial Tracheitis

  • Endotracheal intubation
  • Antibiotics

With treatment, most children recover completely.

Very ill children require endotracheal intubation. The tube keeps the airway from swelling shut.

Intravenous antibiotics are given to treat the infection.

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