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Tonsillitis in children

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Tonsillitis is a common condition in children characterized by inflammation or infection of the tonsils, which are two masses of tissue located at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria and often leads to symptoms such as a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and fever. Here’s what you need to know about tonsillitis in children:


  • Viral Tonsillitis:
    • Viral infections are the most frequent cause of tonsillitis in children. Common viruses responsible for tonsillitis include the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), adenovirus, rhinovirus, and the influenza virus.
  • Bacterial Tonsillitis:
    • Bacterial tonsillitis can result from various bacteria, with Group A Streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes) being a common culprit. This type of tonsillitis is commonly referred to as “strep throat.”


  • Tonsillitis in children often presents with the following symptoms:
    • Sore throat, which can be severe and persistent.
    • Pain or difficulty while swallowing.
    • Fever.
    • Red, swollen tonsils with white or yellow patches.
    • Headache.
    • Fatigue.
    • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.


  • Healthcare providers typically diagnose tonsillitis by conducting a physical examination, including an assessment of the child’s throat and tonsils. In some cases, a throat swab may be performed to confirm whether the infection is viral or bacterial, particularly if streptococcal infection is suspected.


  • Viral Tonsillitis: Viral tonsillitis typically resolves without specific treatment. Supportive care, including rest, adequate hydration, and pain relievers (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen), can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Bacterial Tonsillitis (Strep Throat):
    • Bacterial tonsillitis caused by Group A Streptococcus is treated with antibiotics, commonly penicillin or amoxicillin. It’s essential to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.
    • Pain relief measures, such as throat lozenges or pain relievers, can provide relief from discomfort.


  • Tonsillitis can lead to various complications if left untreated or if infections become recurrent. Potential complications include:
    • Peritonsillar abscess: A collection of pus behind the tonsils.
    • Rheumatic fever: An autoimmune response that can affect the heart, joints, and other organs.
    • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis: A kidney condition that can result from untreated strep throat.
    • Obstructive sleep apnea: Enlarged tonsils can cause breathing difficulties during sleep.


  • In some cases, especially when tonsillitis is recurrent or leads to complications like sleep apnea, a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) may be recommended. This procedure is more common in cases of bacterial tonsillitis.

Parents and caregivers should seek medical attention for their child if they suspect tonsillitis, especially if the child is experiencing severe symptoms or if the condition does not improve with home care. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help manage the condition and prevent complications. Contact a ENT specialist.

The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice of a physician