Tonsillitis: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

One of most common childhood troubles is tonsillitis. This is a condition where two tissues at the back of the throat, called as tonsils are inflamed. The tonsils help in filtering all that goes through your airways. This includes bacteria, viruses as well as other foreign bodies that enter your airways when breathing. At times, some bacteria or viruses prove to be more powerful and cause an infection of the tonsils. This infection that causes inflammation of the tonsils is called as tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is more of a childhood condition, but can strike adults too. Treatment will help in curing the infection and at times surgery may be required in case of complications.

Who are At Risk of Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is very common in children who are between the age group of 5 to 15 years. It can affect young adults as well and in their case it may be called as glandular fever. Children come in contact with more germs than one can imagine. This makes them vulnerable to many diseases and disorders, one of which is tonsillitis.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

The common signs and symptoms that indicate tonsillitis include the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • General malaise
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • Coughing
  • Lymph nodes of the neck become swollen
  • Stiffness in neck
  • Change in voice
  • Earache
  • Bad breath

When the swelling increases, it may cause problems breathing, especially when sleeping. In most cases, the symptoms remain for about 5 days and then reside on their own. In some cases, the infection does not heal on its own and medical help is required.

Causes of Tonsillitis

As mentioned earlier, tonsillitis can be due to a bacteria or viral infection. The most common cause is usually a viral infection. The viruses that can lead to inflammation of tonsils are:

  • Influenza virus
  • Coronavirus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus

The bacterial causes include organisms such as:

  • Streptococcus bacteria (group A streptococcus)
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Diphtheria, etc.

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

If one suffers from a sore throat that does not seem to go away, then medical examination is required. The doctor will check the throat and observe for red, swollen tonsils. He may even take a throat swab to check for bacterial infection. In some cases, a blood test will be conducted to check for Group A Streptococcus bacteria.

Treatment for Tonsillitis

The treatment usually requires home care and rest. Viral tonsillitis heal on their own in a week or so as antibiotics are of no use in this case. The doctor may suggest the following home care treatments:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep the throat dry and flush out toxins from the body
  • Drink warm liquids to soothe the itchy, sore throat
  • Suck on popsicles to help relieve the throat irritation
  • Lozenges also help in relieving the pain
  • Gargle with salt water. It will definitely help in healing the infection faster
  • The doctor may recommend ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc. to control the fever.

In case of bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. One should complete dosage as recommended by the doctor. Do not leave the antibiotic course halfway. It may lead to recurrence of the infection or give rise to complications like rheumatic fever.

Tonsillectomy, that is, surgical removal of tonsils is done only when one suffers from recurrent tonsil infections. It may even be carried out if it leads to complications like problem swallowing, throat abscess, breathing difficulty, etc.

Tonsillitis is easily treatable today. One should seek medical help immediately if one develops pus at the back of the throat, red rash, and fever.

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