A tonsil is a pair of tiny organs found at the back of your throat. They are soft tissues located one on each side of the throat. For some reasons, tonsils get inflamed causing difficulty in eating and drinking. Such conditions of inflammation of tonsils are known as tonsillitis and often they are caused by bacterial infection. During inflammation the tonsils become red and swollen causing discomfort and pain. Tonsillitis can be managed by oral antibiotics and if they recur constantly it can be removed by surgery.
Although tonsillitis can develop on any person it is commonly observed in young children and teenage groups. Some of the common signs of tonsillitis are sore throat, inflammation of tonsils, difficulty in swallowing, enlargement of lymph nodes (due to swelling), fever, scratchy voice and in rare cases stiffness in neck. Young children who cannot explain the above symptoms would refuse to eat or drink and would be fussy and drooling, due to painful throat.
Bacteria and virus are known to cause tonsillitis. It is the Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium that is involved in causing strep throat and infection of tonsils. Tonsils, being part of immune system are affected first when foreign elements like bacteria or virus enter the body through mouth. Tonsils, being the first tiny organ located just in front of the esophagus are vulnerable to infection. Young children and teenage adolescents are more likely to develop tonsils infection than others.
Tonsillitis, if occurring frequently can cause complications like difficulty in breathing and infection of other organs. In rare cases if the infection is not treated tonsillitis can lead to rheumatic fever affecting internal organs like heart and its tissues. In extreme cases pus can develop on the tissues next to tonsil and this condition is called quinsy or peritonsillar abscess. It can cause intense pain and discomfort and has to be treated with antibiotics or removed through surgery.
Your doctor will examine the child’s throat using a special lighted instrument. He would also check the condition of nose and ears to determine if the infection has spread there also. He would check the lymph nodes on the neck for inflammation. Throat swab sample is taken from the infected throat and tested in the lab for the presence of bacteria. In addition he may request for complete blood profile to confirm the presence of strep throat infection.
For mild form of tonsillitis the child should be given plenty of rest and given plenty of fluids to drink. Drinks that can comfort the sore throat like warm tea/coffee or cold ice pops can be given. The child should be encouraged to gargle saltwater which is highly effective in clearing mild viral infection. If the child is above 4 years he/she can be given lozenges to get relief from sore throat. Over the counter drugs like paracetomol or ibuprofen can be given to treat fever. Never give aspirin to your children.
In the condition does not improve within few days you need to consult the doctor. Antibiotics are given for treating bacterial infection of tonsillitis. Penicillin is an effective antibiotic for treating tonsillitis of Strep bacteria. Follow the instructions of your doctor in completing the course of antibiotics. Discontinuing the medication can make the child prone to get infected again but this time more severe.
Surgery is done for tonsillitis if it does not respond to medication and if occurs frequently. The child should have got at least 5 episodes of tonsillitis in a year or he is having trouble in breathing or sleeping due to chronic tonsils infection. Tonsillectomy is the procedure of removing tonsils through surgery. It is a very simple surgery and often the child can get back home within a day.
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The child should be instructed to wash the hands using soap water before eating anything. He should avoid sharing food or drinks with other children. Since most of the viral or bacterial infection is contagious avoid sending him to school. The child should be taught to cough or sneeze using tissue paper.