What is Tracheitis? Causes and Symptoms of a Trachea Infection

Tracheitis is the inflammation of the windpipe (trachea). Most cases of tracheitis are due to a bacterial infection, however, a number of other factors, both infectious and non-infectious, may also cause inflammation of the trachea. Usually these other factors do not affect the trachea in isolation but may also involve other structures higher up and lower down the respiratory tract.

Causes of Tracheitis

A number of different bacterial species are responsible for the majority of tracheitis cases. Frequently this occurs as a secondary bacterial infection that follows a viral respiratory tract infection like influenza (seasonal flu) or H1N1 swine flu. The common cold can also lead to tracheitis but this type of viral infection is usually isolated to the upper parts of the respiratory system.

Some of the bacteria that may be involed include Streptococcal species like S. pyogenes and S.pneumoniae, as well as Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae. Less frequently, other bacteria like the Klebsiella species may be involved. With the increased risk of superbugs like MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and more recently theĀ  NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1) Klebsiella pneumoniae, bacterial tracheitis can be difficult to treat depending on the causative organism.

Other infections like pertussis (whooping cough) is more likely to cause an upper respiratory tact infection but a lower tract infection is also a possibility. Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Viral infections like croup, which is caused by a number of viral species particularly the parainfluenza species, may cause inflammation of the larynx and trachea (laryngotracheitis) or larynx, trachea and bronchi (laryngotracheobronchitis)

Signs and Symptoms of Tracheitis

Tracheitis like other respiratory tract infections, especially laryngitis and bronchitis, may result in very similar signs and symptoms.

  • Retrosternal pain or discomfort (breastbone pain)
  • Dry, painful cough – deep and bark-like in nature. May become a productive cough later with blood-stained mucus.
  • Dysphonia (hoarse voice)
  • Stridor (abnormal breathing sound)
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Painful swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Cyanosis, flaring of nostrils, difficulty breathing (dyspnea) and rapid, short breaths are a sign of respiratory distress that requires immediate medical attention.

Related Articles

  1. What is the Trachea?
  2. Tracheal Deviation
  3. What is Laryngitis?
  4. What is Bronchitis?


  1. Bacterial Tracheitis. Emedicine

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