Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, tissue that sits on both sides of the back of the throat. They help in the immune system to protect the body from infections that may enter the body through the mouth. When the tonsils become infected they become enlarged and red, and have a yellow or white coating.
Tonsil infections may be contagious, and can spread from person to person by contact with the mouth, throat, or mucous of someone who is infected. Tonsillitis symptoms include a sore throat, fever, swollen glands in the neck, and trouble swallowing.
Treatment for tonsillitis depends on whether it is caused by a virus or by a bacteria like group A streptococcus bacteria. Doctors usually can't tell the difference just by looking at the tonsils, but can detect strep bacteria with a rapid strep test or a throat culture.
If tonsillitis is caused by a virus, the body will fight off the infection on its own. If it's caused by strep bacteria, the doctor probably will prescribe an antibiotic. If so, make sure that your child completes the full course of treatment to prevent any complications.
For kids who get tonsillitis often (more than 5 to 7 times during a 12-month period) or frequent repeat infections over several years, doctors might recommend a tonsillectomy to remove the tonsils.
Caring for Your Child
Kids with tonsillitis need plenty of nourishment and rest. If swallowing so painful that eating is difficult, try serving liquids and soft foods, like soups, milkshakes, smoothies, ice pops, or ice cream.
Make sure that your child drinks lots of fluids and gets plenty of rest, and take his or her temperature regularly. Use a nonprescription pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for throat pain. Don't give aspirin or other products that contain aspirin, though, because these can put kids at risk for Reye syndrome, an illness that can have serious complications.
Keep your sick child's drinking glasses and eating utensils separate, and wash them in hot, soapy water. All family members should wash their hands frequently.
If your child starts antibiotic therapy for strep, throw out his or her toothbrush and replace it with a new one a day or two after starting medication.
Try to keep kids away from anyone who already has tonsillitis or a sore throat, and make sure everyone in your family practices good hand-washing.
Reviewed by: Steven P. Cook, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013
- Enlarged Adenoids
- Are Kids With No Tonsils More Susceptible to Infections?
- Can Tonsils Grow Back?
- Strep Test: Rapid
- Strep Test: Throat Culture
- Strep Throat
- Tonsils and Tonsillectomies
Visit our blog!
Visit the Dr. Mom Squad blog to join in the conversation with our experts! You will hear from four local women who have two big things in common; they are all doctors and they are all moms!
Kohl's Cares® Merchandise
Every season, Kohl's offers special items for sale with all profits donated to children's hospitals – including Dayton Children’s. You can view the entire collection of stuffed animals, books and much more at Kohl's Cares® Merchandise.
Free parenting enewsletter
Finding trusted child health and safety information doesn't have to be hard. eGrowing Together offers the latest health, safety and parenting information from our experts delivered to your inbox every month.