Archive Of Standardized Exam Questions: Epiglottitis


This page is dedicated to organizing various examples of standardized exam questions whose answer is epiglottitis. While this may seem a odd practice, it is useful to see multiple examples of how epiglottitis will be characterized on standardized exams (namely the boards and the shelf exams). This page is not meant to be used as a tradition question bank (as all of the answers will be the same), however seeing the classic “test” characterization for a disease is quite valuable.


When it comes to standardized exams, each condition has its own “code” marked by key buzzwords, lab findings, clues, etc. If you are well versed in this code you will be able to more quickly identify the condition that is being discussed, and get the right answer on the exam you are taking. Below is the “code” for epiglottitis

  • Respiratory distress: Tripod positioning, stridor
  • Dysphagia 
  • Drooling 
  • Thumbprint sign can be seen on imaging (this is the enlarged epiglottis)

Question # 1

A 19 year old woman comes to the clinic because she is suffering from a severe sore throat. She also has been experiencing hoarseness and dysphagia for the past 10 hours. Se appears toxic in the clinic and her temperature is 102.1°F. She has severe pharyngitis and stridor that is appreciated during the physical exam. What is a possible diagnosis that must be considered?


Sore throat + dysphagia + hoarseness + fever = epiglottitis

Question #2

A 5 year old male child is brought to the clinic because his mother is concerned that he swallowed a marble. The patient was playing with marbles last night and seemed healthy when he was put to bed. Four hours later he awoke with inspiratory stridor, a fever of 102.9°F, and respiratory distress. The child is sitting up, eating forward, and drooling at the mouth. 



Many questions on standardized exams go beyond simply recognizing the underlying condition. Often there are specific testable facts regarding some aspect of the disease’s pathophysiology/management/clincial implications that are commonly asked. Some of these are listed below:

  • How to manage (acute): immediately conduct endotracheal intubation 
    • Longer term management: antibiotics (cetriaxone/cefuroxime)
  • Common cause: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), trauma (swallowing foreign object)


Page Updated: 01.22.2017