Tonsillitis in Babies: Symptoms and Treatment

Tonsillitis is a common infection that causes the tonsils to swell. When it happens to a baby, it is more difficult to diagnose because the baby cannot talk and tell you where is uncomfortable. Babies have not yet developed a strong enough immune system capable of dealing with virus and bacteria, therefore when the tonsils try to filter out those harmful organisms, sometimes they fail to do so and get infected.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis in Babies

  • Fever with or without chills
  • Refusal to eat or even drink
  • Persistent crying
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Halitosis
  • Incessant drooling
  • Pulling his/her ears
  • Hoarseness or loss of voice
  • Swollen and painful glands in the neck or jaw area

How Is Tonsillitis Diagnosed?

The doctor will check your baby’s throat to see if the tonsils are swollen and whether they have pus or not. Usually, when the tonsils are red and swollen without pus, it may indicate a viral infection. But if the tonsils have pus, then a bacteria infection will most likely be the cause.

Since in some cases tonsillitis in babies is accompanied by otitis, the doctor will also check your baby’s ears. The exam will also include searching for inflamed lymphatic glands in the baby’s neck and jaw.

Depending on the physical exam results, a strep test may be performed to know if that bacteria is responsible for your baby’s tonsillitis.

When to Call Emergency Help

If you see your baby has one or more of the signs listed below, then you should call for medical help right away:

  • The baby has a rigid neck.
  • The baby’s voice and crying becomes less audible.
  • The baby seems more sleepy than usual.
  • The baby does not urinate with the same frequency as before.
  • When the baby cries, there are no tears coming out.
  • The baby refuses to eat or drink.
  • The baby has trouble opening his/her mouth.

How Is Tonsillitis in Babies Treated?

The treatment will vary, depending on the cause.

  • For viral infections, the baby will only need hydration and medications for the fever and sore throat.
  • For bacterial infections, antibiotics should be started as soon as possible.

If the latter is the case, make sure to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics. Your baby may seem well after two or three days; however, if you interrupt the treatment, then the bacteria can come back stronger than before.

If your child has recurrent episodes of tonsillitis every two months or so, then a tonsillectomy may be required.

What Can You Do?

  • Give your baby the prescribed amount of acetaminophen or ibuprofen according to his/her age; do not exceed the dosage or frequency as this can lead to serious health issues.
  • If your baby’s fever persists, then give him/her a cold bath for at least 30 minutes and seek emergency medical attention right away. The risk of fever-induced convulsion is very high in children less than 6 years old. Do not, under any circumstance, give aspirin to your baby.
  • Place a humidifier in the baby’s room to moisturize the air and make it easier for the baby to sleep comfortably. Keep the humidifier clean and change its water daily.
  • Keep the crib and surrounded areas clean and dust-free and try not to put stuffed animals near the baby. Avoid exposing your child to strong smells like those of cleaning products. Do not smoke near the baby. 
  • Carefully put warm towels, a heating pack or bottles filled with warm water on your baby’s neck. This will soothe the pain and inflammation. Do not leave your baby unattended while you put any of these things on him/her and always check for the temperature to avoid accidental burns.
  • Offer cold drinks to your child to help reduce the throat inflammation and pain. Some babies will prefer warm drinks and there is no problem with that; just make sure the temperature is correct to avoid irritating the throat even more.

How to Prevent Tonsillitis in Babies

You need to know that tonsillitis is a very common disease that most kids and adults will suffer at some point in their life. There is nothing to worry about as long as you take precautions and follow the doctor’s orders. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of your baby getting sick:

  • Maintain a good hygiene, and wash your hands and everything that gets in contact with your baby’s mouth, including the pacifier and bottle.
  • Do not let anyone kiss your baby on the mouth or share utensils with him/her.
  • Try your best not to let your child put dirty stuff in his/her mouth.
  • Make sure your baby has a well-balanced diet according to his/her age.
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