What is Tracheitis?

Malcolm Tatum

Tracheitis is a condition in which the trachea has become infected with some type of bacteria. Sometimes referred to as bacterial tracheitis, the level of the infection may be so severe that the trachea swells enough to inhibit the function of the airway. It is not unusual for this type of health issue to develop whenever an upper respiratory condition exists, such as a severe cold or croup. Addressing the infection that causes the trachea to swell is of primary importance, along with clearing the partially or totally blocked airway as soon as possible.

Bacteria can infect the trachea, causing tracheitis.
Bacteria can infect the trachea, causing tracheitis.

The symptoms associated with this condition include the development of a cough that is increasingly deep and sharp, somewhat like the barking of a large dog. There is a constant sense of scratchiness in the throat that is somewhat like that of a sore throat, although often more severe. Because the trachea is swollen, breathing becomes increasingly difficult. A person suffering with acute tracheitis will wheeze with every breath taken, not unlike someone who is experiencing an asthma attack.

Tracheitis is accompanied by severe throat pain.
Tracheitis is accompanied by severe throat pain.

Other symptoms include the development of a fever, as well as other types of pain and discomfort in the head and the upper chest area. The symptoms that tend to signal the onset of the infection include a headache that doesn’t seem to go away and some sense of feeling dizzy or lightheaded. There is also the possibility of experiencing an earache in one or both ears.

Many tracheitis symptoms will mimic that of asthma.
Many tracheitis symptoms will mimic that of asthma.

Tracheitis sufferers may also find that they experience some sort of unsettling pain or discomfort in the upper chest area. This may take the form of a feeling of being sore, usually after the barking cough has started. There may be some tingling, as well as some amount of tenderness in the area from the base of the neck and spreading through the upper chest region.

Tracheitis may cause discomfort in the chest area.
Tracheitis may cause discomfort in the chest area.

Patients who have trouble breathing for any reason should see a healthcare professional. Since the swelling can progress rapidly, getting emergency medical treatment can help stop the infection before the trachea swells to the point of completely blocking the airway. It is not unusual for medical professionals to insert a breathing tube in order to make sure the patient can breathe while medication is used to kill the infection that led to the swelling in the first place. In severe cases, the patient may also receive a drain tube that helps to remove fluid buildup in the infected area. Doing so helps to relieve some of the symptoms while also giving the medication time to begin reducing the swelling.

An increasingly deep and sharp cough is a symptom of tracheitis.
An increasingly deep and sharp cough is a symptom of tracheitis.
The trachea is the tube that connects the nose and mouth to the lungs.
The trachea is the tube that connects the nose and mouth to the lungs.

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Discussion Comments


I had it last year and it lasted seven weeks and now I have it again and hopefully it won't last that long, but I am expecting it to happen.


I am a 60 year old man. I, too, thought I had a cold and it would soon go. The GP diagnosed acute tracheitis and I am now off work. It has made me tired and weak as well as dealing with the coughing.


I was diagnosed with this nearly a month ago. I am wondering now if this wasn't what I had in 2009 when they were testing me for mycoplasma infections. At 40, I am really drained and have tried homeopathic pellets, a bronchial cough elixir suggested by a respiratory pharmacist, menthol gels and even tiger balm on my throat to quiet the cough. I keep reading about the endotracheal tube? Does that mean hospitalization and basically a breathing machine? How long does it stay in? I am so frustrated.


I have all the symptoms now. I'm not sure what to do..


I have had a niggling cough and runny nose for seven weeks now, but thought it would go as I was not coughing up mucus.

I have finally been this morning to the doctor due to irritating all my family and friends with my constant outbursts. I have been diagnosed with tracheitis, which is a huge relief. I have been given Pholcodine 10mg now, so I'm hoping it will shift this because it is really unbearable. Nights seem worse. Fingers crossed. Go to the doctor. Don't wait like I did.


I have this at the moment, started with a cold for the first seven days, then the cough started and breathing was wheezing, went to my doctor who was brilliant. She knew right away what it was, gave me antibiotics which I have taken now for two days and feel a wee bit better already, although talking is difficult as my throat seems to close when I talk longer than a couple of minutes.

Not nice to have so I hope it keeps improving.

I am 64 years of age and normally quite fit but this has really taken it out of me.


I've had this condition since just after Christmas when I had a really bad cold. My GP said antibiotics wouldn't touch it and advised Ibuprofen tablets, steam inhaling with Olbas oil and drinking honey, lemon and hot water. None of these have worked and there's no sign of any improvement. It's also driving my husband crazy as it's always worse at night and interrupts our sleep. It's now into the 15th week. I'm 61, retired, and just want to get on with my life.


I am 48 and every March for the last five or six years I have been getting this. It was only in the last couple of years when I saw a rota doctor in my surgery and he diagnosed me with tracheitis. I was relieved to be told that it just wasn't a cold as at times the cough was so bad I thought that I would break my ribs coughing. Also, I had to use a little steamer which I purchased in a chemist and put some menthol in it to try to be able to breath.

The doctor prescribed me Distaclor tablets 7 day course and they are great. After three tablets I could feel a difference with the cough. Cough medicines don't work. I have tried them all. Stupidly this time, I thought it was just a cold and let it get a hold on me. It took about three weeks to shift.


I have been diagnosed with Tracheitis and have it nearly two months. I was told it can last up to three months because the nurse had it that long. I couldn't speak for a few weeks. Then there was the cough. I am still coughing a little but I think I am on the mend. The back of my throat burned like when you have tonsillitis.

I am female and 57. My daughter had this as a toddler and frighteningly I now realize that it could have been dangerous to her. The doctor at the time just came and went to the house.


I've just been diagnosed with this and its very painful.

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