Bacterial tracheitis (pseudomembranous croup) is an infection of the windpipe (trachea) caused by bacteria.
Bacterial tracheitis is rare and can affect children of any age. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and streptococci are most frequently the cause. The infection develops suddenly and is characterized by a loud squeaking noise (stridor) when the child breathes in, high fever, and often large amounts of pus-filled secretions. Rarely, bacterial tracheitis may develop as a complication of croup.
A doctor bases the diagnosis on symptoms and an examination of the throat using an instrument (laryngoscope). X-rays often are taken of the throat to show the irregularities that distinguish bacterial tracheitis from croup.
With treatment, most children recover completely. Very ill children have a plastic breathing tube inserted through their mouth or nose into their trachea (endotracheal intubation). The tube keeps the airway from swelling shut. Antibiotics (such as cefuroxime or vancomycin) are given to treat the infection.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Anand D. Kantak, MD; John T. McBride, MD