Overview of tonsillitis in children?
Tonsillitis most commonly affects children between preschool ages and mid-teens. Common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include red and swollen tonsils. White or yellow lining or patches on the tonsils.
Symptoms of tonsillitis in children
Inflamed tonsils appear red and swollen, and may be covered with a yellow or whitish coating or spots. A child with tonsillitis may have:
- Throat pain
- Bad breath
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stomach ache
Causes tonsillitis in children
Tonsillitis is frequently caused by a virus such as:
- The flu
- Epstein-Barr virus (monkey)
- Bacteria can also cause it, most commonly group A strep (strep throat). In rare cases, tonsillitis can be caused by more than just an infection.
Diagnosis of tonsillitis in children
The diagnosis is based on a physical examination of the throat. Your doctor may also take a throat culture by gently rubbing the back of your throat. The culture will be sent to a lab to identify the cause of your throat infection.
Your physician may also take a sample of your blood for a whole blood count. This test can show whether your infection is viral or bacterial, which can affect your treatment options.
Treatment for tonsillitis in children
Treatment usually depends on the cause of the infection. A doctor will examine the throat and may include a throat culture to determine if the cause is a bacterial infection. If the doctor determines that the cause is bacterial, such as strep throat, your child may be prescribed antibiotics. If the infection is viral, antibiotics will not exertion to clear the infection.
- Stay hydrated
- Gargling with salt water
- Using throat lozenges
- Use of acetaminophen to help relieve pain
Home care: Most children with tonsillitis can receive care at home after consulting a doctor (if necessary).
You can take care of your child in the following ways:
- Make sure they get enough rest.
- Give them pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. See our fact sheet Pain Relief for Children.
- Give them more fluids to drink. This will prevent your child from becoming dehydrated and help her throat feel less dry and painful. Ice cream sticks are a good option, as they provide more fluids, as well as soothing and numbing a sore throat.
- There are no restrictions on what your child can eat or drink. However, they may prefer milder foods if they have a sore throat.
- Your child should stay home until the fever is gone and they can swallow again. Usually, this will be three to four days.
If antibiotics are prescribed, give them to your child as directed, and be sure to complete the full course of antibiotics.
You should see your general physician again if your child has tonsillitis and:
- Shortness of breath with increased snoring when sleeping
- Difficulty swallowing and demonstrations signs of dehydration
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- You are worried for any reason
Block the airways: Swollen tonsils are easier to see and form a reddish oval mass. Now and then they are big enough to touch in the middle. The severity and frequency of tonsillitis should be taken into account when considering a tonsillectomy. Hugely enlarged tonsils and adenoids can block the airways and cause sleep apnea and shortness of breath during the day.
Fortunately, the size of the tonsils and adenoids generally begins to shrink after age 9 and shrinks rapidly during adolescence. Also, the incidence of tonsillitis peaks between ages 4 and 7 and then begins to decline. Tonsillitis becomes relatively rare after the age of 15. Getting your child through these critical years with antibiotics and conservative treatment can eliminate the need for a tonsillectomy.
As part of the immune system, the tonsils and adenoids are part of the general lymphatic system and help fight infection by filtering bacteria and viruses from the air and food. Some parents are concerned that their child will get sick more often after the tonsils and adenoids are removed, but this is not true. The human body offers a lot of protection. For example, about 250 infection-fighting lymph nodes are located between the clavicle and the cheekbone.
The frequency of tonsillectomies combined with adenoidectomies has been increasing slowly over the past 40 years. Though, the reasons for performing the surgeries have been changing.
Surgery criteria: There are few absolute conditions for tonsillectomy other than an obstruction severe enough to cause a lack of oxygen in the body and cardiopulmonary changes. The following may indicate the need for a tonsillectomy:
- The child has a severe sore throat seven times in a year, or five in each of two years, or three in each of three years.
- The child has a throat infection severe enough to cause an abscess or an area of pus and swelling behind the tonsils.
- The child has a case of tonsillitis that does not get better with antibiotics.
- Your child’s swollen tonsils and adenoids make normal breathing difficult.
As with all elective surgeries, the risks of surgery, including the risks of general anesthesia, bleeding, nausea, and postoperative vomiting, as well as the child’s absence from school and the parent’s absence from work, must be weighed against the benefits. Any decision concerning tonsillectomy must be made in collaboration with the family, surgeon, and pediatrician. Tonsillectomies are usually same-day surgeries, but doctors may suggest an overnight stay for very young patients. Your child will miss about a week of school and then resume her normal routine.
It doesn’t take long, 20 to 30 minutes, for an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist like me to remove your child’s tonsils.
Risk factors of tonsillitis in children
Risk factors for tonsillitis include:
Early age: Tonsillitis occurs most often in children, but rarely in children under 2 years of age. Tonsillitis caused by bacteria is most shared in children ages 5 to 15, while viral tonsillitis is more common in newer children.
Frequent exposure to germs: School-age children are in close contact with their peers and are often exposed to viruses or bacteria that can cause tonsillitis.
Complications of tonsillitis in children
Inflammation or swelling of the tonsils from recurrent or ongoing (chronic) tonsillitis can cause complications such as:
- Labored breathing
- Interrupted breathing during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea)
- Infection that spreads bottomless into the surrounding tissue (tonsillar cellulitis)
- Infection that consequences in a collection of pus behind a tonsil (per tonsillar abscess)
- Streptococcal infection
If tonsillitis caused by group A strep or another strain of strep bacteria is not treated, or if treatment with antibiotics is incomplete, your child is at increased risk for rare conditions such as:
Rheumatic fever, a provocative disorder that affects the heart, joints, and other tissues.
Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, an inflammatory disorder of the kidneys that causes inadequate removal of waste and excess fluids from the blood.
Prevention of tonsillitis in children
The germs that cause viral and bacterial tonsillitis are contagious. So, the best prevention is to repetition good hygiene. Teach your child to:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after using the bathroom and before eating
- Avoid sharing food, glasses, water bottles, or utensils
- Replace Your Toothbrush After Tonsillitis Is Diagnosed
To assistance your kid prevents the spread of a bacterial or viral infection to others:
- Keep your child home when sick
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for your child to return to school
- Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or, when necessary, into their elbow
- Impart your child to wash their hands after sneezing or coughing