Tonsillitis Facts

Scratchy, painful, hard-to-swallow torment-it's so hard to watch your child in discomfort and the sore throat is a bane to many a mother, father and child. If your child is suffering with a sore throat, how do you know if it's a nuisance or if its serious? Get the tonsillitis facts, sort out what's going on with your child, and find out what you need to know about tonsillitis.

Is every sore throat serious?

Sore throats have many causes, from postnasal drip and allergies to the common cold. Even if you are dealing with tonsillitis, it may not be a serious illness.

What are tonsils for?

The tonsils are oval bits of tissue that live on both sides of the interior throat. The tonsils are helpers in your body's fight against infection.

What are the signs of tonsillitis?

According to Healthy Children, there are a few important hallmarks of tonsillitis: red, swollen tonsils; whitish coating on the tonsils; pain swallowing; swollen glands and fever.

How can you tell if a very young child has tonsillitis?

If a child is too young to communicate well, you can still discover signs of tonsillitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, look for excessive drooling due to trouble swallowing, refusal to eat, lethargy and fussiness.

What causes tonsillitis?

Either a virus or a bacterial infection can cause tonsillitis.

Tonsil vs. adenoid

Tonsillitis is not the only concern with sore throats. Adenoids can cause trouble too. The adenoids can enlarge with infection. These glands live slightly higher up the throat above the tonsils and right behind the nose.

Signs of adenoid enlargement

Mouth breathing, blocked nose sounds, noisy breathing and sudden snoring are signs that the adenoids have become enlarged, sometimes due to infection.

Can both adenoids and tonsils be infected?

Yes. Both adenoids and tonsils are part of the immune system. It is not uncommon for both to be swollen and possibly infected. Symptoms of sleep apnea, choking during sleep, tough time swallowing and a throaty sounding voice are indications that both adenoids ad tonsils are enlarged.

Tonsillitis treatments

For many cases of tonsillitis, the cause is viral and the treatment is symptom relief. If the cause of tonsillitis is bacterial, an antibiotic may be prescribed. Additional treatments include rest, fluids, salt-water gargle, lozenges, humidified air and over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Tonsillitis might require surgical intervention.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you and your doctor may choose a surgical option for tonsillitis if:

  • Swelling of tonsils and adenoids makes breathing difficult
  • Swollen tonsils and adenoids make swallowing difficult
  • Breathing becomes hard, uncomfortable and changes speech
  • Affects normal growth of the face
  • Repeated ear and sinus infections don't respond to treatment
  • Too many sore throats each year are affecting your child
  • The lymph nodes are swollen for six months or more, regardless of treatment with antibiotics

Rare complications with tonsillitis

Occasionally, tonsillitis leads to a more serious health issue. The infection can spread into the tissue around the tonsils causing cellulitis-a dangerous form of infection. An abscess of the tonsil can develop. If strep is the virus causing the tonsillitis, strep complications like rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis can develop.

When to see a doctor

If your child's sore throat doesn't go away within a day, swallowing is difficult and painful and your child is lethargic ,call your doctor for advice. According to the Mayo Clinic, if your child has difficulty breathing, extreme pain and trouble swallowing and drooling, get immediate health care.

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