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A to Z: Tracheitis

May also be called: Bacterial Tracheitis

Tracheitis (tray-kee-EYE-tis) is inflammation of the trachea (windpipe), the tube that carries air to and from the lungs.

More to Know

The trachea is a tube made up of rings of cartilage. It extends downward from the base of the voice box (larynx), which is located in the throat. At its bottom end, the trachea divides into left and right air tubes called bronchi that connect to the lungs.

If the trachea becomes swollen and irritated due to inflammation (tracheitis), it can partially or fully block the airway and make breathing difficult. Other symptoms of tracheitis include a deep cough, high fever, and a noisy breathing sound (stridor).

The most common cause of tracheitis is bacterial infection, usually involving bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. In some cases, viral infections and allergic reactions also can cause tracheitis.

Tracheitis mostly affects young children, possibly because their tracheas are smaller and can become blocked more easily. Tracheitis in children is an emergency condition that often requires immediate medical attention. It’s usually treated with antibiotic medications, but in more serious cases, a tube may be placed in the airway to help with breathing.

Keep in Mind

If the airway becomes obstructed, tracheitis can be life threatening. However, with proper and immediate treatment, almost all kids with tracheitis can expect to make a full recovery.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.