Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils that leads to swelling, sore throat and difficulty swallowing. It is usually the result of a viral or bacterial infection and tends to affect children more frequently than any other age group.

Symptoms & Causes

The tonsils, tissues that serve to trap germs and bacteria and prevent infection, are located in the back of the throat. Their constant exposure to germs makes them susceptible to infection themselves. Following puberty, their role as immune system defender declines significantly; this is why tonsil infections are far more common in children than adults.

Tonsillitis refers to tonsil infection, swelling and inflammation that is caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies or upper respiratory disorders. In addition to red and swollen tonsils, symptoms include white or yellow patches on the tonsils, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, tender lymph nodes, bad breath, headache and stiff neck. Younger children may be extra irritable, drool excessively and refuse to eat.

Because strep throat is a frequent cause of tonsillitis, doctors will usually test for it when a patient is diagnosed with a tonsil infection.

Treating Tonsillitis

How tonsillitis is treated depends on whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. If the infection is viral, it should clear up in a week to ten days, and home remedies should do the trick. Make sure you get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids, especially warm liquids like broth or tea with honey. To soothe your throat, gargle with warm saltwater several times a day, eat cold treats such as Popsicles and suck on lozenges or cough drops. Avoid cigarette smoke and other irritants. If a bacterial infection such as strep throat is responsible, antibiotics will be administered.

Your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) if the condition recurs frequently.

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