A child’s tonsils and adenoid are part of their bodies’ defense system against infections. Tonsils are pink, oval shaped tissue masses on either side of the throat. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become inflamed, normally caused by infection.
What Are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?
Your child’s tonsillitis may cause:
- Swollen, red tonsils
- Yellow or white coating over the tonsils
- A sore throat
- A deep or raspy voice
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Painful or uncomfortable swallowing
How is Tonsillitis Diagnosed?
Your child’s ear, nose and throat specialist will begin by doing a physical examination of your child. It will include looking into the throat area, as well as the nose and ears, where infection may also be present. They may also check for a rash called “scarlatina”, which would indicate the presence of a strep infection. Also called scarlet fever, a disease caused by infection with group A streptococcal bacteria that occurs in a small proportion of people with strep throat.
The strep bacteria produces a toxin that causes a rash that appears 1 to 2 days after the onset of illness. The rash initially appears on the neck and chest, then spreads over the body. Typically the rash begins as small red macules which gradually become elevated. The redness fades over a few days and the patient is left with a rough sandpaper feeling rash. While the rash is still red the patient may develop what are called Pastia’s lines, bright red coloration of the creases under the arm and in the groin. The rash usually lasts for 3 days. As the rash fades, peeling may occur around the finger tips, toes, and groin area.
Your ear, nose and throat specialist may also palpate your child’s neck, checking for swollen glands, they may take a throat swab.
During a throat swab, the doctor will rub a sterile swab over the back part of your child’s throat, picking up a secretion sample. This sample can be checked for streptococcal bacteria. Initial testing results are ready from a laboratory after one to two days.
If the test comes back as positive, it is likely that your child has a bacterial infection. If it comes back as negative, your child may have a viral infection. Your child’s doctor may wait for the test to determine the actual infection cause.
Caring for a Child with Tonsillitis at Home
Regardless of the cause of your child’s tonsillitis, you can take care at home to promote a speedy recovery and help your child remain more comfortable. Encouraging rest will help your child to recover in addition, give lots of fluids to keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration. Warm liquids like warm water and honey or broth and cold treats like icy poles will help in soothing sore throats. Gargling with salt water may also help.
Using a cool-air humidifier will prevent dry air irritating an already-sore throat. Older children can suck lozenges, too. Treat fever and pain with ibuprofen or acetaminophen
It is important to not use cleaning products or smoke near your child while they have a sore throat as this can aggravate their symptoms.
Tonsillitis Caused by Bacterial Infection
If a bacterial infection is the cause of your child’s tonsillitis, their physician or ear, nose and throat specialist will prescribe antibiotics. Be sure that your child takes the entire course of antibiotics, even if they feel better after a few days. This will lessen the chance of the infection worsening or having it spread to other areas..
When is Surgery Required?
A tonsillectomy, or surgery to remove the tonsils, will be recommended if your child has tonsillitis that recurs frequently or if medical management is not effective. Tonsillectomies are commonly performed and safe procedures. If your child does need surgery, be sure they know what to expect, so that they will be well prepared. By talking to your child about having their tonsils out and explaining what is involved, you will help them to go through the process with a greater sense of control.
If you have questions about tonsillitis contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see an Ear Nose Throat Specialist.
Click here to find out more about tonsillectomy in children.