Your tonsils are two infection-fighting centers located in the way back of your throat, one on the right another on the left. These bundles of lymphatic tissue work hard to keep you from getting sick ‘catching’ germs and bacteria that enter the body through the mouth and nose - but sometimes even they get infected. This infection is called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections –including the Epstein – Barr virus (EBV) which is responsible for causing the Mononucleosis infection.
The symptoms of tonsillitis are similar to many of the other throat related infections- sore throat, strep and mono- all of which may end up leading to tonsillitis. If you are currently suffering from one of those illnesses, it may be important to pay special attention to your tonsils and keep yourself aware of the symptoms of tonsillitis
- Sore throat
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty swallowing (eating, drinking, swallowing saliva)
- Swollen glands
- Swollen or red tonsils (redder than normal)
- White patches on tonsils
- Whitish or yellowish discharge coming from tonsils, or covering them.
- Bad breath
- Loss of voice, or other changes to voice
Usually tonsillitis is not serious, but left untreated it can lead to deeper and more complicated problems. Pus discharges may build up and become abscesses which may then cause breathing difficulties or spread the infection to your bloodstream or into the neck or chest- this, however, is very rare. If any of the following symptoms are present, see a doctor immediately!
- High fever (over 103 degrees F)
- Symptoms of tonsillitis persisting over 48 hours
- Exposure, or possible exposure to the strep throat bacteria
- Worsening sore throat pain
- Severe headaches
- Chest pain
- Skin rashes
- Severe difficulty swallowing (or fear of dehydration due to inability to swallow easily)
- Difficulty breathing
There are several options when it comes to tonsillitis treatment- all dependent on the type of infection.
Bacterial infections are often easily treated by a prescribed batch of antibiotics. If the person suffering is a child and cannot easily swallow pills, the antibiotics may be given as an injection instead. These powerful drugs are usually taken over a course of 10 days- and it is important to finish off the entire dosage you are prescribed, even if you feel better!! Not finishing the antibiotics may allow the infection to return, stronger, meaner, and resistant to the first antibiotic- requiring stronger drugs.
- Viral infections are treated without medications- and are generally allowed to run their course. Usually the person feels better within a week or two. If symptoms persist longer than two weeks, seek medical help. Tips on how to relieve the discomfort can be found below.
- Drink lots of fluids! Warm and cool- these fluids will sooth your throat, and more importantly, keep you properly hydrated. Avoid drinks with caffeine as they will assist dehydration.
- Get lots of rest! Resting will give your body the ample time and energy it needs to heal itself.
- Avoid solid foods that might irritate your throat, or be painful to eat. Ice creams, jello, soups, applesauce and other soft foods are cool. Crackers, spicy foods, and anything hard or crunchy are bad ideas.
- Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Aspirin. REMEMBER Aspirin should Never be given to children!!
Sometimes, if a child is experiencing recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, or the tonsillitis is so severe that they are having extreme difficulty eating or breathing the doctor will decide to remove the tonsils- a tonsillectomy. Your child may be eligible for this minor surgery if they fit into any of the following categories
- 7 or more infections of tonsillitis in one year
- 5 or more infections a year for two years
- 3 or more infections a year for three years
- Tonsillitis that recurs despite antibiotic treatment
Extreme hindrance of breathing or swallowing due to the swelling and irritation of tonsils.
The surgery is minor, and the child can usually go home the day of the operation. However, it takes about two weeks to totally recover and the child will be very prone to contracting infection during this time, so caution should be taken (prevention tips given below). There will also be a good amount of throat tenderness and very soft and cool foods (such as ice creams, applesauce, and jello) will help soothe and ease this discomfort. In some cases, ear pain is also noticed following the surgery. A cool mist humidifier kept in the child’s room may also help to keep them comfortable, but it should be cleaned and changed daily- if they are left to sit, and simply refilled they may become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
The best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases is to know how to properly wash your hands, and also how frequently. Star teaching your children early the importance of washing their hands more often then just before meal times and after using the restroom.
If you have a child or family member who is sick, make sure they know how to properly protect everyone around them by washing their hands every time after sneezing or coughing (with their hands in front of their mouths to prevent the airborne spread of germs) or wiping their nose.
To wash everything they eat off of or drink from with soapy hot water, not to share drinks or food, to keep in mind that you should keep other household items clean or disinfected after using them- this can include phones, doorknobs, blankets, and so forth.
In families with young children, elderly people, or others who might have weakened immune systems, properly controlling the spread of germs is particularly important.