DESCRIPTIONTonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils (clumps of lymphoid tissue at the back of the throat). Tonsils are small at birth, enlarge during childhood, and become smaller at puberty. When not infected, tonsils help prevent infection in the sinuses, mouth, and throat from spreading to other body parts. Tonsillitis is contagious.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSThroat pain, either mild or severe.
Chills and fever as high as 104F (40C) or more.
Swollen lymph glands on either side of the jaw.
Viral or bacterial infection of the tonsils.
RISK FACTORSCrowded or unsanitary living conditions.
Exposure to others in public places.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEAvoid exposure to people with upper-respiratory infections.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Surgery to remove the tonsils (occasionally).
Abscess of the tonsils and nearby throat area, requiring surgery to drain.
Chronic tonsillitis, with a recurrent sore throat and greatly enlarged tonsils, caused by repeated attacks.
Rheumatic fever, if the bacterial infection is streptococcal and it is not treated with antibiotics.
Usually spontaneous recovery. Symptoms generally begin to improve in 2 to 3 days, but treatment may last longer. If attacks of tonsillitis are so severe and frequent that they affect one's general health or interfere with schooling, hearing, or breathing, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils. A tonsillectomy involves small risk to a child, but the risk increases with age.
Use a cool-mist humidifier to relieve throat irritation and cough.
Prepare a soothing tea or other gargle. Double the usual strength of tea. This may be gargled warm or cold as often as is soothing.
MEDICATIONIf the tonsillitis is caused by a streptococcal infection, your doctor will prescribe penicillin or other antibiotics for at least 10 days.
To relieve pain, you may use acetaminophen.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
ACTIVITYKeep the patient away from others until fever, pain, and other symptoms disappear.
Bed rest, except to use the bathroom, is necessary until fever subsides. Normal activity may be resumed when temperature has been normal for 2 or 3 days.
DIET & FLUIDS
Increase all fluid intake. While the throat is very sore, use liquid nourishment, such as milkshakes, soups, and high-protein fluids (diet or instant-breakfast milk drinks).
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite and activity at home return to normal. Approximately 2 weeks.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of tonsillitis. If tonsils cover the opening of the throat (hold down the tongue with a spoon and look with a flashlight), call your doctor immediately.
Symptoms worsen or the following occurs during treatment:
--Temperature is normal for 1 to 2 days, then rises above 101F (38.3C) orally or 102F (38.9C) rectally.
--New symptoms begin, such as nausea, vomiting, skin rash, thick nasal drainage, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
--Your child has a convulsion.
--Joints become red and painful.
--Cough produces a discolored (green, yellow, brown, or bloody) sputum.