Tonsillitis

  • Treatment

    If bacteria such as strep are causing the tonsillitis, antibiotics are given to cure the infection. The antibiotics may be given once as a shot, or taken for 10 days by mouth.

    If antibiotic pills are used, they must be taken for the entire amount of time prescribed by the doctor. DO NOT stop taking them just because the discomfort stops, or the infection may not be cured.

    Other treatments include:

    • Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles
    • Drink fluids, especially warm (not hot), bland fluids
    • Gargle with warm salt water
    • Suck on lozenges (containing benzocaine or similar ingredients) to reduce pain (these should not be used in young children because of the choking risk)
    • Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen to reduce pain and fever. Do NOT give a child aspirin. Aspirin has been linked to Reye syndrome.

    Some people who have repeated infections may need surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy).


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    Expectations (prognosis)

    Tonsillitis symptoms usually improve 2 or 3 days after treatment starts. The infection usually is cured after treatment is completed, but some people may need more than one course of antibiotics.

    Complications of untreated strep tonsillitis may be severe. Children with tonsillitis related to strep throat or pharyngitis should generally be kept home from school or day care until they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours. This helps reduce the spread of illness.


    Complications
    • Blocked airway from swollen tonsils
    • Dehydration from difficulty swallowing fluids
    • Kidney failure
    • Peritonsillar abscess or abscess in other parts of the throat
    • Pharyngitis - bacterial
    • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis
    • Rheumatic fever and related cardiovascular disorders

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if there is:

    • Excess drooling in a young child
    • Fever, especially 101°F or higher
    • Pus in the back of the throat
    • Red rash that feels rough, and increased redness in the skin folds
    • Severe difficulty swallowing or breathing
    • Tender or swollen lymph glands in the neck