An occasional sore throat from a bout with the flu, or an afternoon of enthusiastically cheering for a beloved team at a sporting event can happen to anyone. Small school-aged children, who are constantly exposed to germs and bacteria through their classmates, are more prone to suffer from chronic sore throats and inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis). Tonsillitis is a common childhood illness, and is generally rare in adulthood.
What Causes Tonsillitis?
Like colds and the flu, most cases of tonsillitis are caused by a viral infection. However, they can also be caused by bacteria. Viral and bacterial infections are treated differently, and therefore require diagnosis and treatment from an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT).
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tonsillitis?
- Sore throat/pain and difficulty eating and swallowing
- Redness and swelling of the tonsils
- Tender and swollen glands
- White or yellow spots on the tongue or tonsils
- Bad breath
- Raspy voice
- Neck stiffness
- Drooling (when swallowing becomes too painful)
Parents should schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist if pain and symptoms do not improve in 24 - 48 hours.
How is Tonsillitis Treated?
Treatment depends on the source of the infection. If caused by a viral infection, treatment may be similar to a cold or flu with over the counter pain and fever medication and rest. If the source is a bacterial infection, an ENT doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Every case should be evaluated and treated by an ear, nose and throat specialist to make sure that the infection clears up properly.
Will my Child Need to Have the Tonsils Removed (Tonsillectomy)?
Tonsillectomies are generally used as a last resort in rare cases where the condition has become chronic and does not respond to medication and conservative treatment.
Is Tonsillitis Preventable?
The same measures that protect children from cold and flu can be used to help reduce their chances of catching viral tonsillitis from a friend or classmate at school or in day care. Covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, frequently washing the hands and avoiding close contact with sick classmates can help. Keeping children home from school or day care until they are feeling better can help reduce the spread of germs.