WCM's Dr. Michael Stewart Explains Epiglottis, the Serious Illness that Put a Comedian in the ICU Last Week

Dr. Michael G. Stewart

Mr. Michael G. Stewart

Comedian Sarah Silverman shone a light on a rare but life-threatening throat condition on Facebook this week, saying she was “insanely lucky to be alive.”

What seemed like a sore throat, she wrote, was actually “a freak case of epiglottis." 

But what is epiglottis, how is it different from a sore throat and why is it so dangerous? The Huffington Post spoke with Dr. Michael G. Stewart, the chairman of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medicine, to find out.

Epiglottis occurs when a small piece of cartilage that covers the windpipe swells, usually because of a bacterial infection, and blocks airflow to the lungs. The condition, Dr. Stewart told the website, can be extremely painful.

“Epiglottitis is severe throat pain ― so severe you can’t even swallow your own saliva, so severe that it feels like you might be having difficulty breathing,” he said. “Patients will typically be sitting literally drooling, often because it’s so painful to actually swallow.”

Dr. Stewart also answered other questions about epiglottis, including its symptoms and the prevalence of the disease. Learn more about the condition by checking out his interview with the Huffington Post.