What is Bacterial Tracheitis, Know its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What is Bacterial Tracheitis?

Bacterial Tracheitis is a bacterial infection affecting the trachea or the wind pipe. The trachea is an important part of the body in the sense that when an individual inhales air through the nose or mouth, it goes through the larynx into the trachea through which it goes into the lungs and similarly carbon dioxide rich air is exhaled out into the air through the trachea. Hence, an infection to the trachea is a cause for concern.

Bacterial Tracheitis is quite a rare condition and it affects the children in almost all of the cases. Bacterial Tracheitis can lead to life threatening complications if the condition is not diagnosed and treated promptly. This condition is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus and generally develops after a cold or flu. Adults may also get infected by this condition, but there is spontaneous resolution in adults of Bacterial Tracheitis.

What is Bacterial Tracheitis?

What Causes Bacterial Tracheitis?

As stated, Bacterial Tracheitis is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. There are also other bacteria that may cause this infection and include Streptococcus pneumonia, Hemophilic influenza, and Moraxella catarrhalis. Majority of the cases of Bacterial Tracheitis develop after a common cold or flu. Following a respiratory infection, it becomes easier for the bacteria to infiltrate the trachea which can result in infection, inflammation and swelling of the trachea. Since in a child the size of the trachea is quite small even a little bit of swelling of the trachea can result in airway obstruction. Adults may also get affected by Bacterial Tracheitis, but it develops more slowly and tends to resolve on its own.

What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Tracheitis?

Bacterial Tracheitis will usually present after an upper respiratory infection. The initial symptoms may be cold, cough, low grade fever. As the disease progresses, there will be more severe symptoms to include:

Stridor may be noticed in advanced stage of Bacterial Tracheitis and when this occurs, it is an emergency situation for the child and the child needs to be taken to the hospital immediately for treatment.

How is Bacterial Tracheitis Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Bacterial Tracheitis a physical examination will be conducted to begin with. The physician will carefully listen to the breath sounds of the child to see if there is any abnormality in the breath sounds suggesting respiratory distress. To confirm the diagnosis, the physician will order the following tests which will also help to rule out other causes for the symptoms.

  • Nasopharyngeal culture to look for the presence of any bacteria.
  • A tracheal culture to look for any signs of infection or inflammation.
  • Blood tests to check the level of oxygen in the blood, which will be low in cases of Bacterial Tracheitis.
  • Radiological studies in the form of x-rays to check for any inflammation or swelling suggesting Bacterial Tracheitis.
  • The results of the above tests will confirm the presence of Bacterial Tracheitis.

How is Bacterial Tracheitis Treated?

The front line treatment for Bacterial Tracheitis is utilizing antibiotics to first kill the bacterium that is causing the infection. The antibiotics in most cases are given intravenously meaning that the child will have to be in the hospital for treatment. The next step towards treatment will be to clear the airway obstruction due to Bacterial Tracheitis. This may require intubation so as not to disrupt the child’s breathing. The child will then be put on a ventilator till the lung function improves and the child recovers from the infection caused due to Bacterial Tracheitis.

What is the Prognosis of Bacterial Tracheitis?

The prognosis of a child with Bacterial Tracheitis depends on the severity of the condition. If the condition has progressed to a state where the child’s airways are obstructed then the prognosis becomes somewhat guarded and hence a quick diagnosis and treatment is essential. In case if the trachea becomes completely blocked, it may lead to respiratory arrest from which the prognosis becomes quite poor due to Bacterial Tracheitis.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 12, 2022

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