Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is swelling of the tonsils.

Tonsillitis is very common in children.

The tonsils are lymph nodes in the back of the mouth and top of the throat. They help to filter out bacteria and other germs to prevent infection in the body.

A bacterial or viral infection can cause tonsillitis. Strep throat is a common cause.

The infection may also be seen in other parts of the throat. One such infection is called pharyngitis.

Common symptoms may be:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat, which lasts longer than 48 hours and may be severe
  • Tenderness of the jaw and throat

Other problems or symptoms that may occur are:

  • Problems breathing, if the tonsils are very large
  • Problems eating or drinking
  •  
Your health care provider will look in the mouth and throat.
  • The tonsils may be red and may have white spots on them.
  • The lymph nodes in the jaw and neck may be swollen and tender to the touch.

A rapid strep test can be done in most doctors' offices. However, this test may be normal, and you can still have strep. Your provider may send the throat swab to a laboratory for a strep culture. Test results can take a few days.

 

Swollen tonsils that are not painful or do not cause other problems do not need to be treated. Your provider may not give you antibiotics. You may be asked to come back for a checkup later.

If tests show you do have strep, your doctor will give you antibiotics. It is important to finish all of your antibiotics as directed, even if you feel better. If you do not take them all, the infection can return.

The following tips may help your throat feel better:

  • Drink cold liquids or suck on fruit-flavored frozen bars.
  • Drink fluids, and mostly warm, bland fluids.
  • Gargle with warm salt water.
  • Suck on lozenges (containing benzocaine or similar ingredients) to reduce pain.
  • Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen to reduce pain and fever. 

Some people who have repeated infections may need surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy).

 

Tonsillitis symptoms due to strep will often get better within 2 or 3 days after you start the antibiotics.

Children with strep throat should be kept home from school or day care until they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours. This helps reduce the spread of illness.