Tonsillitis is infection that causes inflammation (swelling and redness) of the tonsils. Tonsils are clumps of tissue, one on each side of the throat, that trap bacteria and viruses.
Tonsillitis is very common in children 6 to 12 years old. Most children recover quickly. The disease usually lasts 4 to 6 days. Tonsillitis is contagious and spreads by direct contact with infected secretions, such as saliva, mucus, and tears.
The cause is often a virus, but bacteria can also cause tonsillitis. Tonsillitis caused by bacteria is called strep throat when it is caused by Streptococcus bacteria.
Symptoms include a sore throat, pain and trouble swallowing, drooling, fever, earache, tender swollen glands in the neck, and tonsils that look swollen and red. Tonsils may have a yellow or thin white coating or small white patches. Some children have a hard time breathing because of very large tonsils.
The health care provider will diagnose tonsillitis by examining the throat. The health care provider may use a swab to get a sample from the throat to test for strep bacteria. The health care provider may also do blood tests if other infections such as mononucleosis are suspected.
Rest and good fluid intake are the best treatment. If bacteria are the cause, the health care provider will prescribe antibiotics. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for pain and fever. Gargling with a saltwater solution or other soothing liquid may help pain and irritation. A cool mist vaporizer may also help the cough and irritation.
For some children, the health care provider may suggest removing the tonsils (tonsillectomy). This surgery is usually done for frequent or long-lasting tonsillitis that causes breathing problems.
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