Acute upper airway obstruction: Overview, Causes

Alternate Names

Airway obstruction – acute upper

Definition

An acute upper airway obstruction is a blockage of the upper airway, which can be in the trachea, voice box (laryngeal), or throat (pharyngeal) areas.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Causes of acute upper airway obstruction include:

* Allergic reactions in which the trachea or throat swell closed, including allergic reactions to a bee sting, peanuts, antibiotics (penicillin), and blood pressure medications (ACE inhibitors)
* Chemical burns and reactions
* Croup
* Epiglottitis (infection of the structure separating the trachea from the esophagus)
* Fire or burns from breathing in smoke
* Foreign bodies — such as peanuts and other breathed-in foods, pieces of a balloon, buttons, coins, and small toys
* Viral or bacteria infections
* Peritonsillar abscess
* Retropharyngeal abscess
* Throat cancer
* Tracheomalacia
* Trauma
* Vocal cord problems

Pictures & Images

Throat anatomy

Structures of the throat include the esophagus, trachea, epiglottis and tonsils.

Choking

Choking

Choking is the hindrance of breathing due to an obstruction of the throat or windpipe. The Heimlich maneuver should be conducted to try to dislodge the object.

Respiratory system

Respiratory system

Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

Acute upper airway obstruction: Overview, Causes

Acute upper airway obstruction: Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Acute upper airway obstruction: Treatment


Review Date : 7/8/2009
Reviewed By : Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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