Tonsil Infections

Like ear infections, tonsil infections tend to strike children frequently – and then virtually disappear after adolescence. Known medically as tonsillitis, tonsil infections can be blamed on those same pesky viruses and bacteria that cause other afflictions.

Causes & Symptoms of Tonsil Infection

The tonsils are oval-shaped tissues in the throat that act as filters, trapping germs and bacteria before they can enter the airways and cause infection. They are a crucial immune system defender, but their constant exposure to germs makes them susceptible to infection, as well.

The most common cause of tonsil infection is a virus or bacterium. Streptococcus, the bacterium that causes strep throat, is frequently to blame. Other causes include adenoviruses, influenza, enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus, and Epstein-Barr virus.

The primary symptoms of tonsillitis are a sore throat and red, swollen tonsils that may contain a white or yellowish coating. Other signs include swollen neck and jaw glands, ear pain, throat blisters, difficulty swallowing, fever, headache, chills, fatigue, and bad breath.

Treatment & Prevention

Historically, when a child had a tonsil infection, the tonsils were removed surgically in a procedure known as a tonsillectomy. Over time this treatment approach was deemed excessive and, most of the time, unnecessary. Instead, the preferred course of treatment relies largely on home remedies, with tonsil surgery reserved for chronic cases that can’t be cured medically.

If your child is suffering from a tonsil infection, make sure he or she gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids. Warm liquids like broth or tea are especially effective. Sucking on cold popsicles can also bring relief from throat pain. Use over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever, but avoid giving your child aspirin, which has been linked to Reye’s syndrome in children. Throat lozenges and cough drops are helpful for children old enough to use them safely (4+).

If the tonsil infection is related to strep throat or another bacteria, antibiotics are likely to be prescribed.

Tonsillitis is highly contagious, so avoid contact with people who are infected. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, with warm water and soap, especially after being around somebody who is sick.