Cover image for tonsillitis in kids

People still lack full information on what tonsils are or why they need to be removed. Tonsils are tissues that are part of the lymphatic system. They keep off germs from entering the body by trapping them. These can get infected when there is a germ build-up. This infection of the tonsils is known as tonsillitis.  

According to the WHO, it is estimated that approximately one child suffers 7 episodes of a sore throat while there are 20-30 million cases of tonsillitis. Children are more susceptible to suffering from tonsillitis as they spend most of their time in school, playground or in an environment where germs thrive a lot. Moreover, the immunity system of children is still building making it more prone to infections.

Also Read: Types of Tonsils: Pictures, Diagnosis, and Home Remedies

Symptoms of tonsillitis in kids

The most visible symptom of tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils that appear red and swollen that are covered with yellow or whitish spots on the throat. Doctors check for the following symptoms and signs in children while diagnosing for tonsillitis-

difference between inflamed and normal tonsils

Sometimes children belonging to the age group 7-12 years also complain about a headache or abdominal pain. 

Causes of tonsillitis in kids

Generally, tonsillitis occurs when bacteria and viruses attack the tonsils. Some of the virus that attacks the tonsils are-

  • Adenovirus
  • The flu
  • Epstein- Barr virus 

The most common group of bacteria that attacks the tonsils is group A streptococcus

 Other causes of tonsils are- 

  • Fungi that can cause yeast infections
  • Allergies such as hay fever
  • Infection of the sinuses
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke or air pollution
  • The backing of acid from the stomach to the throat
  • Cancer 

Diagnosis of tonsillitis in kids

The ENT doctor looks for the symptoms followed by a physical examination. They look inside the mouth, back of the throat and the neck region. 

doctor checking inside the mouth

After this, the doctor uses a soft cotton swab to collect a sample from the tonsils and back of the throat. There are two ways that can confirm tonsillitis-

  • Rapid strep test- This is a quick swab test that doctors use to check for the presence of any bacteria that can cause strep throat or other infections. 
  • Throat culture- This diagnostic test is more accurate than the Rapid strep test but it takes a little longer for the results to show. 

Complications of tonsillitis in kids 

Some of the possible complications that can occur if the tonsillitis is left untreated are-

  • Difficulty in breathing if the tonsils become very large
  • Severe infections near the throat region
  • Dehydration as their loss of appetite as well as difficulty while swallowing

Treatment of tonsillitis in kids  

The treatment of tonsillitis in kids mainly depends on the symptoms you are experiencing, the age of your child and overall general health. Depending on the severity of the condition, you can try the following tips. 

Treatment of tonsillitis in kids

  • Take pain-killers such as pills that contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. 
  • Increase the daily limit of the water intake of your child. You can also give your children teas that have ingredients to soothe the pain. This will prevent dehydration in your kid and make the throat less dry and painful. 
  • Taking lozenges that have cough drops.
  • Although there are no restrictions on what your child eats or drink, give your children smooth, cold foods such as gelatin, ice cream or ice popsicles.
  • Ask your child to gargle with salt water. This is one tip that older kids should follow. 
  • Make sure your child gets enough rest. 

If bacterial infections have caused tonsillitis, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic. These help to clear the symptoms more quickly as well as prevent the infection from spreading. 

Prevention of tonsillitis in kids 

To reduce the risk of tonsillitis in your child, try the following measures- 

  • Wash hands regularly to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause tonsillitis.
  • Keep your children away from other kids who are already suffering from strep throat or throat infections. 
  • Avoid smoking near your children.
  • Keep your children immunized.  
  • If a family member is suffering from tonsillitis, make sure your child doesn’t use the same utensils or drinking glasses. Moreover, they should not share food, drinks, napkins or towels with any other family members. 

Here is a list of tips that parents need to keep in mind while treating tonsillitis in children. 

  • If tonsillitis has occured due to viral infections, antibiotics won’t work. 
  • It is crucial that the course of medicines prescribed by the doctor should be completed or else the infection may come back. 
  • Tonsillitis in children can be cured at home with sufficient rest and taking plenty of fluids. 

Take your child to an ENT doctor immediately if he or she is suffering from tonsillitis and the following problems-

  • Gasping for breath 
  • Snoring when asleep
  • Shows signs of dehydration
  • Is unable to open the mouth 

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