Tracheitis is a bacterial infection of the windpipe (trachea).
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.
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:
The child often needs to have a tube placed into the airways to help with breathing. This is called an endotracheal tube. Bacterial debris often needs to be removed from the trachea at that time.
The child will receive antibiotics through a vein. The health care team will closely monitor the child's breathing and use oxygen, if needed.
With prompt treatment, the child should recover.
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.
Bacterial tracheitis; Acute bacterial tracheitis
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Meyer A. Pediatric infectious disease. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 197.
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Roosevelt GE. Acute inflammatory upper respiratory obstruction (croup, epiglottitis, laryngitis, and bacterial tracheitis). In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 385.
Review Date 11/4/2018
Updated by: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.