Tracheitis is a bacterial infection or inflammation of the trachea (windpipe). The trachea is an important part of the body’s airway system. In addition to relieving oxygen to the lungs, the trachea also carries carbon dioxide out of the body through exhalation.

In most cases, tracheitis is caused by the bacteria Straphylococcus and often follows a viral upper respiratory infection. Following a URI, bacteria are able to spread more easily through the trachea and cause infection, inflammation and rapid swelling. The infection mainly affects younger children and is associated with symptoms such as coughing, breathing difficulties, high fever, headache, ear ache, chest pain, and high pitched grinding noise while breathing. The reason that it is mostly likely to occur in children is due to the fact that the trachea in children is smaller and even the mildest swelling can cause blockage in the airway, while in adults, the infection may heal before the airway can become blocked.

Although bacterial tracheitis is rare, left untreated it can lead to severe complications that can be life-threatening.


What diseases may be associated with tracheitis?

Bacterial tracheitis is typically caused by Staphylococcus aureus; however, there are other bacteria that can cause this infection. Diseases that may be associated with tracheitis include the following:


  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Laryngitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Acute bronchitis


Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and it is always a good idea to consult with a doctor regarding any questions, concerns or if symptoms persist. 


What are possible treatment options for tracheitis?

The most appropriate treatment for tracheitis generally depends on the cause that has triggered the infection. Bacterial infections are treated with antiobiotics and in more severe cases involving difficulty breathing, intubation may be required. A tube is placed in the airway and it is connected to a ventilator to help improve lung function. It may also be necessary to administer oxygen.

Cases involving hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux may require drug therapy. It can be helpful to take antacids, however the most appropriate form of treatment should be determined by a physician only.


When is it advised to consult with a doctor regarding tracheitis? 

Bacterial tracheitis is a medical emergency. In the event that a child recovering from an infection of the upper airway suddenly develops a fever, a cough that tends to worsen or respiratory problems, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately.

Possible complications of tracheitis may include airway tracheal obstruction, toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia and pulmonary edema. Also, a high pitched sound while breathing can be a sign of serious infection and represents partial airway obstruction, a potentially fatal condition.

The general outlook for this condition depends on how quickly it is treated. In younger children, airways can become blocked more quickly and if the trachea becomes completely blocked, it can lead to respiratory arrest and even death. The most effective way to prevent bacterial tracheitis is vaccination. Vaccination again influenza, measles, and streptococcus pneumonia is necessary for all children in order to prevent the development of the infection.

In any case, if bacterial tracheitis is treated properly, a full recovery can be expected.