Epiglottitis is a serious medical condition in which the epiglottis becomes infected or inflamed. This piece of tissue rests as the base of the tongue to keep food from going into the windpipe while eating. When it becomes inflamed, it can block off the windpipe and prevent breathing. The condition can be fatal if not treated quickly. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it is treated with devices to ensure proper breathing in combination with antibiotics.