Friday Health : Tonsillitis

with Nyasha Kawanzaruwa

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, two oval - shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat  one tonsil on each side. 

Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include swollen tonsils, Sore throat, difficulty swallowing and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by infection with a common virus, but bacterial infections also may cause tonsillitis.

Because appropriate treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause, it's important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis. 

Surgery to remove tonsils, once a common procedure to treat tonsillitis, is usually performed only when tonsillitis occurs frequently, doesn't respond to other treatments or causes serious complications.


Tonsillitis most commonly affects children between preschool ages and the mid - teenage years. Common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include:

Red, swollen tonsils

White or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils

Sore throat

Difficult or painful swallowing


Enlarged, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck

A scratchy, muffled or throaty voice

Bad breath

Stomach ache, particularly in younger children

Stiff neck


In young children who are unable to describe how they feel, signs of tonsillitis may include:

Drooling due to difficult or painful swallowing

Refusal to eat

Unusual fussiness


Tonsillitis is most often caused by common viruses, but bacterial infections can also be the cause.

The most common bacterium causing tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes Strep throat. Other strains of strep and other bacteria also may cause tonsillitis.


Risk factors for tonsillitis include:

Young age. Tonsillitis is most common from the preschool years to the mid - teenage years.

Frequent exposure to germs. School-age children are in close contact with their peers and frequently exposed to viruses or bacteria that can cause tonsillitis.

Home Care

Whether tonsillitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, at-home care strategies can make your child more comfortable and promote better recovery.

If a virus is the expected cause of tonsillitis, these strategies are the only treatment. Your doctor won't prescribe antibiotics. Your child will likely be better within seven to 10 days.

At-home care strategies to use during the recovery time include the following:

Encourage rest.  Encourage your child to get plenty of sleep and to rest his or her voice.

Provide adequate Fluids. Give your child plenty of water to keep the throat moist and prevent Dehydration.

Provide comforting foods and beverage. 

Warm liquids  broth, caffeine-free tea or warm water with honey  and cold treats like ice pops can soothe a Sore throat.

Prepare a saltwater gargle. If your child can gargle, a saltwater gargle of 1 teaspoon  of table salt to 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of warm water can help soothe a Sore throat. Have your child gargle the solution and then spit it out.

Humidify the air. Use a cool-air humidifier to eliminate dry air that may further irritate a Sore throat, or sit with your child for several minutes in a steamy bathroom.

Offer lozenges. Children older than age 4 can suck on lozenges to relieve a Sore throat.

Avoid irritants. Keep your home free from cigarette smoke and cleaning products that can irritate the throat.

Treat pain and Fever. Talk to your doctor about using ibuprofen  or o minimize throat pain and control a Fever. Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from Chickenpox or Flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children.


If tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics.  If your child is allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe an alternative antibiotic.

Your child must take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms go away

When to see a doctor

It's important to get an accurate diagnosis if your child has symptoms that may indicate tonsillitis.

Call your doctor if your child is experiencing:

A Sore throat that doesn't go away within 24 hours

Painful or difficult swallowing

Extreme weakness, fatigue or fussiness

Get immediate care if your child has any of these symptoms:

Difficulty breathing

Extreme difficulty swallowing



Inflammation or swelling of the tonsils from frequent or ongoing (chronic) tonsillitis can cause complications such as:

Difficulty breathing

Disrupted breathing during sleep (obstructive Sleep apnea).

Infection that spreads deep into surrounding tissue. (tonsillar Cellulitis)

Infection that results in a collection of pus behind a tonsil (tonsillar abscess).


The germs that cause viral and bacterial tonsillitis are contagious. Therefore, the best prevention is to practice good hygiene. Teach your child to:

Wash his or her hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the toilet and before eating

Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses or utensils.

To help your child prevent the spread of a bacterial or viral infection to others:

Keep your child at home when he or she is ill

Ask your doctor when it's all right for your child to return to school

Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or, when necessary, into his or her elbow

Teach your child to wash his or her hands after sneezing or coughing.

*Nyasha Kawanzaruwa is a nurse at Matizha clinic in Gutu, Masvingo Province.


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