Tonsillitis or inflammation of the tonsils is a medical condition where the two masses of tissue at the back of the throat becomes inflamed. This condition most commonly affects children, but teenagers and adults may also experience it.
Tonsillitis usually resolves on its own after a few days.
The tonsils are two oval-shaped pads and function as filters to keep germs from entering the airways and causing infections in the body. The tonsils also function as antibodies to fight infection.
Sometimes, overworked tonsils can become overwhelmed with fighting off too many bacteria and viruses. As a result, the tonsils will become swollen and inflamed.
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by common viral infections, but bacterial infections can also be a factor. Treatment of tonsillitis is also determined by its triggers.
In severe cases, patients with tonsillitis may need to undergo tonsillectomy.
Causes of Tonsillitis
The condition of tonsillitis most often occurs due to viral infection. In some cases, tonsillitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection.
The most common bacteria that causes tonsillitis is the streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which is the bacteria that causes strep throat.
Meanwhile, the common viruses that cause tonsillitis are:
- Influenza viruses
- Parainfluenza Virus .
- Simplex herpes viruses.
The tonsils are the immune system’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that enter through the mouth. This is why the tonsils are very susceptible to infection and inflammation.
In children, the tonsils work very hard to fend off bacteria and viruses. When the tonsils are overworked, they become easily swollen and inflamed.
As you get older, especially after puberty, the ability of the tonsils to attack viruses and bacteria increases. The tonsils become less prone to inflammation. This is what causes tonsillitis to occur more frequently in children.
When to See a Doctor for Tonsillitis?
If a child experiences symptoms of tonsillitis, parents should immediately consult an ENT specialist. Doctors can detect the condition of tonsillitis by asking about the symptoms experienced and examining the back of the patient’s throat.
The most common initial tests performed to check the condition of the tonsils are:
- Using lighting devices to observe conditions in the throat, ears, and nose.
- Checking for a rash called scarlatina which is often associated with strep throat cases.
- Gently touching the child’s neck to detect and feel any swollen glands.
- Listening to the child’s breath with a stethoscope.
- Checking for an enlarged spleen, which is an organ located in the upper left abdominal cavity, which might also affect the tonsils
In certain cases, for a more comprehensive examination, your doctor may:
- Wipe a cotton swab against the back of the throat to collect a cell or saliva sample and test for bacteria. Your child may feel uncomfortable during this examination, but the examination is not painful. You can obtain the results within 10 to 15 minutes.
- Conduct a blood test to rule out glandular fever if the symptoms are severe and persistent. A blood test is done by counting the complete blood cell count to find out whether the tonsillitis is caused by a virus or bacteria.
Symptoms of Tonsillitis
The most common symptoms of tonsillitis in children include:
- Bad breath.
- Stomach ache.
- Stiff neck.
- Ear pain.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite.
- Reddened tonsils.
- Hoarse and muffled voice.
- Pain and sore throat.
- Enlarged soft glands in the neck.
- Painful blisters or ulcers in the throat.
- Yellow and white coating or patches on the tonsils.
Swollen soft glands in the neck, white spots on the tonsils, and bad breath usually occur when the tonsillitis has become severe. Your child may have difficulty describing the symptoms experienced.
For this reason, parents have a role to observe children’s symptoms. Children with tonsillitis will generally:
- Drool excessively. This occurs as a result of difficulty swallowing and sore throat.
- Refuse to eat because they lose appetite and experience difficulty swallowing food.
- Become irritated easily, experiencing mood swings due to discomfort in the throat.
- Deal with stomach ache. This symptom is most common in young children, but rarely occurs in older children or in adults who have tonsillitis.
Parents are advised to immediately take their child to the doctor if the pain does not improve within 48 hours.
Treatments of Tonsillitis
The condition of tonsillitis generally resolves on its own within 3 to 4 days. The condition is harmless and not contagious, but the viruses or bacteria may be passed on to other people.
The doctor’s treatment will be adjusted to the factors that cause tonsillitis. Tonsillitis caused by viruses can go away on its own. Meanwhile, bacterial tonsillitis can be cured with antibiotics.
Antibiotics can be given through a single injection or a pill that needs to be consumed for several days. In young children, antibiotic treatment by injection is generally more recommended.
Generally, symptoms will improve within two to three days. However, patients will have to finish the whole course of antibiotics even after they feel better.
In cases of severe and serious tonsillitis, treatment may require surgical procedure to remove the tonsils. This operation is performed if the tonsillitis condition causes complications such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent symptoms, even after taking antibiotics
Tonsillitis treatment with surgery is very rare. Usually, children who have had tonsil removal surgery will undergo a 14-day recovery period.
Treatment Costs for Tonsillitis
The cost for tonsillitis treatment varies, depending on the symptoms, the causes, and the treatment method.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of tonsillitis treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Tonsillitis
For parents, you should regularly check in on your child’s health condition as one of the preventive measures. The sooner tonsillitis is detected, the faster it can be treated and prevent your child from more dangerous complications.
Children with tonsillitis need to be careful to not transmit the virus or bacteria to other people. For that, preventive measures can be done by:
- Resting at home and not engaging in outdoor activities until completely recovered
- Using a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throwing it away immediately.
- Washing your hands immediately after coughing and sneezing
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Tonsillitis
The condition of tonsillitis generally resolves on its own within a few days. Therefore, you can ease the symptoms through home remedies.
Below are several home remedy suggestions to reduce tonsillitis symptoms:
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Drink cold water to soothe the throat.
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen as a pain reliever.
- Gargle with warm salt water (not recommended for children).