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Understanding And Recognizing Tonsillitis In Children



If your child has chronic tonsillitis, they may need surgery to remove the tonsils and you need to understand the signs and symptoms of the inflammation.

Tonsillitis can actually be caused by a virus or a bacterium, but in either case, the condition is most commonly contagious. While anyone can contract it, the inflammation is common in children because they don’t have the same developed immune systems as adults. Children can’t tell you exactly what is wrong with them, so if your little one is sick, you need to be aware of the symptoms and signs of tonsillitis.

The Two Types of Tonsillitis

As mentioned, there are two forms of the condition: bacterial and viral.

  • Usually, a bacterial infection is caused by streptococcus. This is the same bacteria responsible for strep throat. It is highly infectious and can pass from one child to the next very easily. When a child is diagnosed with bacterial tonsillitis, proper antibiotics will need to be used.
  • In the case of viral infections, tonsillitis is usually allowed to run its course. Not many medications can be used other than something to control the pain. Viral infections usually take 10-14 days to clear up.

Some children are more prone to tonsillitis for various reasons, and there are times when the condition is considered a chronic problem. If your little one is sick with the infection several times a year, then your ENT may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

Children can’t always specifically explain what is wrong with them. That means you need to be keenly aware of the symptoms of the infection so that you can get it treated as quickly as possible. Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Tonsils that are red and swollen and have white or yellow patches on them
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Scratchy voice
  • Headache
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Stomach ache

Very young children often suffer from stomach aches when they have a tonsillitis infection. In babies and toddlers, further symptoms include fussiness for no apparent reason, not eating, and drooling from not swallowing.

What to Do

If your child does have tonsillitis, you need to take them to the doctor. Some cases of a chronic infection do require a tonsillectomy and you should discuss options with an ENT. If your child has the infection very rarely, the doctor may prescribe medications in bacterial cases. In any event, you will want to provide care that will make your little one more comfortable while they recover. Here are some things you can do:

  • Provide them with cold things, such as popsicles, ice cream, and milkshakes to soothe the throat.
  • Let them eat soup and other foods that don’t scratch the throat.
  • Never give a child aspirin. This can cause a dangerous illness called Reye syndrome.
  • Use acetaminophen in properly prescribed doses to manage pain.

Since tonsillitis is most likely infectious, you will need to keep your little one at home and out of school or daycare for several days.

How to Prevent the Condition

While you may not be able to completely keep your little one safe, there are some things you can do to avoid tonsillitis. Begin by teaching your children how to properly wash their hands and always keep hand sanitizer available. If one of your child’s friends has a sore throat or tonsillitis, keep your child away from them for several days.

If you think your child has tonsillitis, you need to make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor right away. The infection will require proper treatment to avoid any extended pain or illness.