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3 Reasons Why Tonsillitis Should Never Go Untreated

3 Reasons Why Tonsillitis Should Never Go Untreated

While many childhood illnesses, such as colds, tonsillitis, ear infections and bronchitis are a common part of growing up, the infections can be difficult for both kids and parents due to loss time from work and school and secondary complications. Tonsillitis, a condition that affects many children during the ages 5-15, is generally mild and clears up over a 7-10 day period. However, complications may occur and visiting with your child’s doctor is still very important to avoid these complications. To better understand tonsillitis and understand when you should seek medical treatment, we will review the causes, symptoms, complications and treatment options.

Tonsillitis: causes and symptoms

Our tonsils help us defend our bodies from disease and infections but ironically are prone to infection. Viral infections, such as adenovirus, influenza, and rhinovirus, are often responsible for tonsillitis, but there are bacterial infections that can cause tonsillitis too. The tonsils can also become inflamed from secondary causes such as post nasal drainage from sinusitis, acid reflux or allergies. 

Regardless of the cause of tonsillitis, your child may deal with a variety of symptoms, such as red, swollen tonsils, white or yellow coating or patches on their tonsils, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, enlarged or tender lymph nodes, headache, and neck pain or stiffness. Tonsillitis may also be accompanied by a scratchy, throaty, or muffled voice, and younger children may experience drooling due to swallowing difficulties, unusual fussiness, or may refuse to eat due to the discomfort.

Reasons to consider medical treatment

You’re no doubt used to dealing with your child’s sore throat issues, but there are good reasons to get medical help for tonsillitis and other throat infections:

1. Proper treatment for the illness

Despite many cases of this condition being mild, getting medical attention will help to properly diagnose and treat it. Your doctor may want to perform a throat exam, culture and, in rare cases, imaging of the area.

2. Complications from chronic tonsillitis

Chronic tonsillar inflammation can lead to tonsillar enlargement and breathing problems while sleeping (obstructive sleep apnea), the spread of the infection to other tissue (tonsillar cellulitis), and pus collecting behind the tonsils (peritonsillar abscess).

3. Possible complications of bacterial tonsillitis

If your child gets tonsillitis from streptococcal bacteria, otherwise known as strep throat, it can increase the risk of some rare conditions. They may experience scarlet fever which can lead to complications like rheumatic fever, poststreptococcal reactive arthritis (which causes inflammation in the joints), and glomerulonephritis, a type of kidney inflammation.

Treatment options

How your child is treated may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, but if it is determined that the tonsil infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics will likely be recommended. In cases of viral tonsillitis, supportive therapy alone may be recommended. Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure that may be recommended if you child is suffering from recurrent tonsillitis or has a poor response to oral antibiotics. Removing the tonsils is also performed if enlarged glands are causing sleep apnea, difficulty breathing and swallowing, or if an abscess occurs.

Conservative home remedies include bed rest, plenty of fluids for hydration, liquids to soothe the throat, saltwater gargling, using humidifiers to reduce dry air, throat lozenges, and over the counter pain relievers to reduce symptoms.

Tonsillitis is often a minor problem that will resolve after a short period of time, however for severe or recurrent cases you should consider medical evaluation for you or your child to help prevent complications. If you are suffering from recurrent or chronic tonsillitis or enlarged tonsils causing obstructive symptoms, our team of ear, nose, and throat doctors at Lake Grove ENT can help you determine the best course of treatment.

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