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Bacterial Tracheitis

By John T. McBride, MD, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacology, Rootstown;Akron Children’s Hospital

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Bacterial tracheitis 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 (see Croup) or endotracheal intubation (insertion of a plastic breathing tube through the mouth or nose into the trachea—see Mechanical Ventilation).


  • Laryngoscopy

  • Neck x-rays

A doctor bases the diagnosis on symptoms.

To confirm the diagnosis, a doctor examines the throat with a thin viewing tube (laryngoscope). X-rays often are taken of the neck to show the irregularities that distinguish bacterial tracheitis from croup.


  • Endotracheal intubation

  • Antibiotics

With treatment, most children recover completely.

Very ill children require endotracheal intubation. The tube keeps the airway from swelling shut. Antibiotics (such as cefuroxime or vancomycin) are given to treat the infection.

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