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Acute upper airway obstruction

  • 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.

    Alternative Names

    Airway obstruction - acute upper

    Causes, incidence, and 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