Healthcare Library

Tonsillitis

If your child often has a sore throat, trouble swallowing, and ear pain, she may have a problem with her tonsils. So, what causes tonsillitis? The tonsils are small, dimpled, golf ball-like nodes on either side of the back of your child's throat. They normally help to filter out bacteria and other germs to prevent infection in the body. If the tonsils become so overwhelmed with bacteria from strep throat or a viral infection, they can swell and become inflamed, causing tonsillitis. Your child's doctor will look in your child's mouth and throat for swollen tonsils. The tonsils will probably be red and may have white spots on them. The lymph nodes in your child's jaw and neck may be swollen and tender to the touch. The doctor may test your child's blood for infection. If bacteria are the cause, your child will probably need to take antibiotics, either in a shot or in pill form. If your child needs to take antibiotic pills, make sure she takes all of the medicine. To comfort your child, give her cold liquids and popsicles. Gargling with salt water can help. She can also take over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for her pain and fever. Tonsillitis usually improves two or three days after treatment starts. The infection usually goes away too, but some people may need to take antibiotics for longer. If your child has a great many repeated infections, surgery may be recommended to remove her tonsils, but this is no longer a common reason to have the tonsils out.

Tonsillitis

Review Date: 5/20/2019

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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