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Visible Epiglottis?
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Visible Epiglottis?

Hi-

I am just wondering if the epiglottis is clearly visible in children...my daughter (who is exactly 24 months old) opened her mouth very wide to laugh and my husband and I were surprised to see a cobra-like flap of skin rising up from the back of her tongue, about halfway up to the roof of her mouth.  It is about 1/4 of the size of her entire tongue, and looks very firm and cartilage-like (texture of an ear), although we have not been able to touch it. The epiglottis is the only thing I've been able to find that is in the general area.

We have looked in everyone's mouth who will let us, and can't find someone with such a pronounced "mystery appendage".  She has a regular checkup scheduled in two weeks, and I am wondering if it's something I should have her pediatrician take a look at before then...she is otherwise healthy.

Thank you for your help.  I sincerely appreciate your time and the helpful, important service you provide!

-Christina
Columbus, Ohio
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Tough to say what it is without examination.   However, I can say that if epiglottitis is present, children look pretty toxic.  High fevers, lethargy, severe sore throat, problems swallowing, and drooling would accompany the symptoms.  If the child is otherwise healthy, epiglottitis is less likely.  

I would certainly discuss this with your personal physician, and consider an ENT evaluation if the workup continues to be non-revealing.

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
Medical Weblog:
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-9 Comments
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My 2 year old son has the exact same thing.  He has constant throat infections and is always gagging and coughing.  He recently had tubes in for ear infections.  He gets better for a couple of weeks and then the coughing and throat infection start again.  When this happens I can see (what I think is the epiglottis at the back of his tongue/throat) .  

He is going back to the ENT this week.  Is there anything they can do for this.  Please help with any advise.

A frustrated mom!
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We have a 21 month old daughter Emily who has the exact same thing. It started 2/3 days ago, or thats when we first spotted it. It only appears when she opens her mouth wide and sticks her tongue forwards. She is healthy otherwise.

We were shocked to see it at first, and our local doctor said he hadn't seen it before and described it as "wierd" so this didnt help put our minds at rest.

What interested us was monkey 1's comments about coughing and throat infections. Emily seems to pick up colds easily and has recently had quite a bad cold with a lot of coughing. She keeps waking in the night quite upset and we don't know whether she is feeling any discomfort.

If it is still visible in the next few days we will insist our doctor refers us to a specialist, just to be sure.

Marcus Johnson
Salisbury, United Kingdom
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I have a large epiglottis also, and have since I was a child.  My pediatrician told my parents that it was completely normal, just larger than most people's, and it sticks out and as my dad describes it "looks like a second tongue".

I am prone to throat infections regularly, but other than that, I've never had any troubles with it... just thought I would reassure those of you whose children seem perfectly healthy with this extra long epiglottis.

~Cara
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Being able to visualize a child's epiglottis can be completely normal.  

As Dr Pho mentioned epiglottitis is a disease where the epiglottis is inflammed causing the child to be EXTREMELY sick - typically manifested by high fever, inability to swallow, drooling, etc.  The child will typically want to sit up and lean forward thereby alleviating a possible obstruction in his/her throat caused by the swollen epiglottis.  Fortunately, since the advent of the "Hib" vaccine, epiglottitis is pretty uncommon these days.  

I see many kids in my practice and would "guesstimate" that for every 100 throats I look into there will be 2-3 normal kids whose epiglottis is visible.

Hope this helps!
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