Cannabis induced thermal epiglottitis in a pediatric patient

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Nov:49:114-116. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2021.05.024. Epub 2021 May 13.


Acute epiglottitis is an airway emergency presenting with edema and inflammation of the epiglottis and aryepiglottic folds [1]. Infectious and other non-infectious etiologies may cause significant airway injury presenting with similar clinical symptoms and radiographic findings [1]. While many causes of thermal epiglottitis have been described in the pediatric and young adult population, we describe an unusual case of an adolescent patient with cannabis induced thermal epiglottitis. A 17-year-old previously healthy, vaccinated adolescent male presented to the pediatric emergency department with dysphagia, odynophagia, drooling, and muffled voice with fever, tachypnea, and leukocytosis. Lateral plain film imaging and computed tomography (CT) scan showed significant edema of the epiglottitis. Urinary drug screen in the emergency department was positive for benzodiazepine, opiates, and cannabinoids. Transnasal flexible laryngoscopy and direct laryngoscopy demonstrated significant erythema, edema, and copious secretions. Culture of the epiglottis culture showed normal oropharyngeal flora. The patient was diagnosed with thermal induced epiglottitis secondary to cannabinoid use based on positive substance use history, urinary drug screen, and negative bacterial cultures. Clinicians must consider thermal injury of the epiglottitis due to substance use, specifically marijuana in vaccinated adolescent patients presenting with positive substance use history, progressive dysphagia, odynophagia, and drooling with a muffled voice. It is essential to obtain a thorough history and physical examination and urinary drug screen in the pediatric emergency department since the clinical and radiographic findings are similar in epiglottitis due to infectious and non-infectious etiologies. Prompt management with intubation should occur to protect and maintain airway integrity.

Keywords: Differential diagnosis; Epiglottitis; Pediatrics; Thermal injury.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Burns / complications
  • Burns / therapy
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Epiglottitis / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Laryngoscopy / methods
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / therapy
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods