In a retrospective study of the incidence of acute epiglottitis in Sweden, 485 children and 356 adults fulfilled the following criteria: (a) red and swollen epiglottis visualised at laryngoscopy; (b) stridor or difficulties in swallowing own saliva or water; and (c) temperature greater than or equal to 38 degrees C. The age specific incidence in children (0-14 years) was 10 and in adults (greater than or equal to 15 years) 1.8/100,000/year. These incidence rates were higher than the incidence of Haemophilus influenzae meningitis in the same population. Blood cultures were obtained from 290 children (60%) and 185 adults (52%). H influenzae was isolated from 267 blood cultures (92%) from children and 98 blood cultures from adults (53%). Other organisms were isolated from six adults (3%). An artificial airway was established in 352 children (73%) and in 68 adults (19%); the remainder were treated conservatively. Six children and two adults died. Sweden has a high incidence of acute epiglottitis in children and the disease also occurs in adults. The importance of H influenzae in the aetiology of epiglottitis in all age groups is confirmed, but in adults many cases occur without septicaemia. The mortality is currently very low.
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