When you add breathing problems to a sore throat, it is time to get medical help

One of the health care challenges that we all face is trying to decide if symptoms, like a sore throat or congestion, require medical care, or if they are rather benign and will go away on their own.

Here is a good example. A person has a fever and sore throat for two days, and then wakes up the next morning with loud breathing sounds. While many people may choose to treat a short-term fever and sore throat at home, when a breathing issue is added into the mix, it merits a trip to the doctor or emergency room.

These symptoms are consistent with a disease called epiglottitis, which may be life-threatening if not treated.

The epiglottis is a flap at the base of the tongue that prevents food from going into your windpipe, or trachea.

Epiglottitis is when the epiglottis is swollen and inflamed, which can make breathing difficult and even cut off your air supply. A complete list of symptoms for epiglottitis include: painful swallowing (odynophagia), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), drooling, stridor, and being in a tripod position.

When doctors evaluate someone with these symptoms, they listen for stridor, which is an abnormal, high-pitched sound caused by air trying to get through a partially-obstructed airway. Doctors also look at the patient’s physical position. People having problems breathing (respiratory distress) often stand or sit in the tripod position, which is leaning forward, supporting the upper body with hands on the knees or something else. Many people find that it is easier to breathe in the tripod position.

Of course, any time that a person is having problems breathing, it is a medical emergency. Treatment of epiglottitis often starts with inserting a breathing tube down the patient’s through and into the airway. Keeping an open airway allows the patient to breath.

Doctors also often order a blood culture and culture of a swab from the epiglottis to decide which antibiotics to use to address the infection that is causing the epiglottis to swell. For most patients, doctors order a third-generation cephalosporin, like ceftriaxone or cefotaxime, but may select a different antibiotic based on culture results or suspicion of certain types of bacterial infection.

What you can do

It is often hard to make a decision on whether to go to the doctor or not. Based on my experience as a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, any time that there is a problem breathing, I recommend that you get to a doctor or hospital emergency room fast.

If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured by poor medical, hospital, or nursing care, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, are here to help. Call 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.


Attorney Robert Painter investigates and files lawsuits for victims of all types of medical negligence. He practices at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas.

Robert Painter
Article by

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.