Acute bacterial tracheitis
Tracheitis is a bacterial infection of the windpipe (trachea).
Alternative NamesBacterial tracheitis; Acute bacterial tracheitis
Bacterial tracheitis is most often caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It frequently follows a recent viral upper respiratory infection. It affects mostly young children, possibly because their small trachea is easily blocked by swelling.
The child usually has a high fever and looks very ill.
The cough is deep and is similar to that caused by croup, but the usual croup treatments do not make the child's breathing easier.
Breathing becomes more difficult with time. The child makes a high-pitched sound sound when breathing in. This is called stridor.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and listen to the lungs. The muscles between the ribs pull in as the child tries to breathe. This is called intercostal retractions.
Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:
- Blood oxygen level
- X-ray of the trachea
- Nasopharyngeal culture to look for bacteria
- Tracheal culture to look for bacteria
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 and oxygen. The health care team will closely monitor the child's breathing.
With prompt treatment, the patient is expected to recover.
- Airway obstruction -- can lead to death
Toxic shock syndrome -- if caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Tracheitis is an emergency medical condition. Go to the emergency room if your child has had a recent upper respiratory infection and suddenly has a high fever, a cough that gets worse, and trouble breathing.