Tonsillitis in Children

Tonsils are the small, pink golf ball like masses of tissues present on either side of the throat. The main function of them is basically to protect the lungs and intestines from the foreign invading germs. Unfortunately, these tonsils can be infected by pathogens, making them swollen and inflamed, which is termed as tonsillitis. Tonsillitis in children is usually more common than in adults. In this article, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatments of tonsillitis in children will be discussed in detail.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis in Children

Generally, sore throat and pain with swallowing are observed in children with tonsillitis. As the child will have difficulty in swallowing, he will refuse to eat or drink due to pain in the throat. Normal breathing is also replaced by the snoring or mouth breathing with mouth odor. The worsened condition can also cause disturbances in sleep, sometimes resulting in bed-wetting (enuresis). The other common symptoms related to this disease are swollen glands in neck, decreased appetite fatigue, etc. The symptoms of tonsillitis can vary according to the cause of infection. If the infection is caused by an upper respiratory viral attack, then it starts gradually with nasal congestion. And if the infection is caused by the strep bacteria, it starts suddenly with high fever about 100.4⁰F.

Causes of Tonsillitis in Children

Tonsillitis is caused by two types of pathogens, either by viruses or by bacteria. Many of the viruses causing tonsillitis are the same as those causing common colds or flu (influenza). The "group A streptococcus bacteria" are also the causative agents for tonsillitis. These types of infections are contagious and can spread through coughing or sneezing. It can be avoided by:

  • Staying away from public places like place of work, school, etc.
  • Sneezing or coughing into a tissue to avoid its spread
  • Washing the hands with sanitizer or soap before eating, after coughing and sneezing, and after going to toilet 

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis in Children

Normally tonsillitis in children is not a serious condition. You only need to take your children go for a treatment by GP if the symptoms:

  • Last more than four days and signs of improvement are not shown
  • Are severe, e.g., if your children are unable to swallow anything due to pain in throat with difficult breathing

Your GP will ask some questions about the symptoms, as well as examining the jaws and the neck to check the swelling in lymph nodes as well. Lymph nodes are also part of immune system of the body and can be infected like the tonsils. The symptoms observed in a strep bacterial infection include:

  • High temperature
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • White pus filled spots on the surface of the tonsils
  • No cough

Once the causative agent is diagnosed as the strep bacteria, then the treatment can be preceded with the antibiotics. A tissue sample of the infected tonsil can be sent to the labs for further clarification in diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for Tonsillitis in Children

Treatment of tonsillitis in children depends on the causative agent.

If tonsillitis is caused by a virus, then it is managed by waiting and watching, that means the body’s own immune system will fight off the infection. However, to ease the pain, swelling and fever, the doctor may prescribe acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). The aspirin as a pain killer should not be given to the child because of its linkage to Reye’s syndrome, which is a life-threatening condition.Above all, it’s always recommended to consult your GP before using any medication.

If the cause of tonsillitis is bacteria, then the doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic course for 10 days. If the doctor recommends this, it’s the responsibility of the parents to complete the full course to prevent any complication. If it is not completed due to any reason, certain complications like abscess or rheumatic fever can take place.

For some kids who get tonsils often (five to seven times during a 12-month period), the doctor may recommend tonsillectomy to remove the infected tonsils. This tonsillectomy is usually done as an outpatient procedure unless the child is very young or the condition is very severe. If the tonsillectomy is successful and your child's condition is normal, he can go home on the same day. The normal recovery time is 14 days after the surgery.

Home Care to Make Your Children More Comfortable

Tonsillitis in childrenis common, and mostly the parents are worried about the care to make their children more comfortable. For this, as parents, you can just follow simple guidelines listed here:

  • Let your child get the rest.
  • Offer him cold drinks or ice pops to minimize the pain, or give him warm (not hot) and soothing tea or broth. Lemon and a little honey mixed in water can also be an effective tonic. But honey should not be given to very young children to avoid botulism.
  • Compress his neck by placing comfortably warm bottle on it.
  • The throat irritation can be reduced by humidifying the air.
  • Keep the cigarette smoke or pollutants of this type away from the child to avoid irritation of throat.
  • If the child can gargle, then ask him to gargle with salty warm water.
  • Give your child a throat lozenge to suck, in this way, saliva will be produced, which will bath and clean the throat.
  • For the children of age more than 3 months, give acetaminophen only and for the age-group more than 6 month, correct dose of ibuprofen can be given, to lower the pain and fever. For the babies with age less than 3 months, every medication must be consulted by the GP.

Tonsillitis makes your children really uncomfortable, so you'd better prevent it from happening. Learn the preventions from the video below:

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