Your throat is on fire and it hurts to swallow so you get a flashlight and look at the back of your mouth. There you see two giant glands looking swollen and irritated. Could it be tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is swelling and inflammation of the tonsils, which are the oval-shaped pads at the back of your mouth. Your tonsils are lymph nodes that help to filter out germs and bacteria to reduce your risk of developing an infection.

Tonsillitis is common in children. The most common cause for tonsillitis in infants, toddlers and preschoolers is a viral infection, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

Normal tonsils are pink and barely noticeable. Inflamed tonsillitis tonsils, on the other hand, are very red, swollen and obvious. There may be a white coating on the tonsils. Fever and bad breath are common.

Symptoms of tonsillitis include:

• Difficulty swallowing
• Ear pain
• Fever, chills
• Headache
• Sore throat that may be severe or last longer than 48 hours
• Tenderness of your jaw and throat

The most common cause for tonsillitis in infants, toddlers and preschoolers is a viral infection, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Other problems and symptoms may occur. Very large and inflamed tonsils can make it difficult to breathe. Pain, tenderness and difficulty swallowing can cause problems with eating and drinking.

Causes of Tonsillitis

Infection from bacteria or viruses can cause tonsillitis. Strep throat, an infection due to streptococcus bacteria, is a common cause of tonsillitis. Both tonsillitis and strep throat can cause a sore throat but you can have a sore throat without having either tonsillitis or strep. Depending on its cause, tonsillitis can be contagious.

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

You should see a doctor when your tonsillitis is very painful or prevents you from eating, drinking and breathing well. Treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause, so it is important that you get a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

An ear, nose and throat specialist, or ENT, can help diagnose and treat tonsillitis. While other doctors can diagnose and treat tonsillitis, ENTs can diagnose and treat difficult or complex cases.

A healthcare provider will look at your tonsils and examine the rest of your mouth and throat, noting if your tonsils are red or swollen, or if there are white spots on your tonsils. Your doctor will check the lymph nodes in your jaw and neck for swelling and tenderness and may also look for a scarlatina, a type of rash sometimes associated with strep throat. You might also be checked for enlargement of your spleen and other signs of mononucleosis, a serious condition that can inflame your tonsils.

You cannot always avoid tonsillitis, but you can reduce your risk for developing a bacterial or viral infection with good hand washing practices.

The doctor may perform a rapid strep test to determine if you have strep throat, which can lead to tonsillitis. You can have tonsillitis without strep throat. You can purchase rapid strep kits for home use, according to Children’s Hospital St. Louis, but it is always best to let your doctor confirm the findings with laboratory testing.

Treatment of Tonsillitis

Drinking fluids and getting plenty of rest helps. Smooth foods, such as flavored gelatin, soups, popsicles and applesauce may be easier to swallow than regular food.

Antibiotics are only effective if the tonsillitis is the result of a strep bacterial infection. Unfortunately, antibiotics will not work on tonsillitis caused by a virus, but your body should be able to fight off the infection on its own.

Doctors do not perform tonsillectomy to remove tonsils as much anymore and reserve the surgery for only those cases where bacterial tonsillitis occurs frequently.

You cannot always avoid tonsillitis, but you can reduce your risk for developing a bacterial or viral infection with good hand washing practices.

For more information about tonsillitis, contact Revere Health. Our ear, nose and throat specialists are always ready to serve you.

Revere Health Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) offers specialized, comprehensive healthcare for patients with a variety of disorders of the head and neck.

Schedule an appointment today!

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