Tonsillitis is a common condition that mostly occurs in young school-aged children from 5 through 15 years old. The visible glands located in the back of the throat become enlarged, red, and inflamed. Patients may experience difficulty swallowing, drooling, difficulty opening the mouth, fever, abdominal pain, rash on the body, white patches on the tonsils, redness in the back of the throat, bad breath, muffled voice, worsening snoring, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.
Even though viruses usually cause the infection, the public understands that bacteria known as Streptococcus (i.e., Strep) is also a very common source of infection. The spread of infection is usually respiratory (small particles coughed or sneezed into the air from someone infected).
The mainstay of treatment for the bacterial type of tonsillitis is the use of oral antibiotics. The treatment of viral tonsillitis is supportive care such as fluids and anti-inflammatories such as Motrin® or Advil®. Your doctor may suggest that a throat culture be obtained to determine whether the source of infection is viral or bacterial so that a decision can be made as to whether oral antibiotics are necessary or not. If left untreated, the infection can lead to more serious conditions such as a peritonsillar abscess (an infection that burrows deep to the tonsil and has the potential to spread to deeper structures in the neck), post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (kidney ailment that can permanently damage the function of the kidney), and finally, scarlet fever (manifestations of high fever and rash on the skin).
If your child should fail medical management (antibiotics) for recurrent or chronic tonsillitis, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure known as a Tonsillectomy (with or without Adenoidectomy, depending on the child’s age and other symptoms). Please refer to the section on Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy of this website for what is expected from this surgery.