There are two small bud-like tissues positioned at the back of the mouth, called tonsils. They are a part of the human immune system as they produce white blood cells and antibodies to combat infection causing germs in the mouth. Therefore, tonsils are considered to be the primary defence mechanism of protecting the body against bacteria contained in food, water or air.
Tonsillitis is a result of bacterial or viral infection of the tonsils. This condition can take place in people of all ages, however, adults have incurred various other infections in their life and are thus, less susceptible to infection than children.
Signs and symptoms
- Sore throat
- Some children may have stomach aches
- Yellow or white spots indicating pus on the tonsils
- Pain while swallowing
- Bad breath
- Chronic tonsillitis: Infection that does not ease out easily. The victim may feel fatigued and sick frequently.
- Secondary infection: Infections that may radiate towards the nose, ears and sinuses.
- Quinsy: When the infections spreads inside and around the tonsils resulting in an abscess being formed in the throat. This is called peri-tonsillar abscess and leads to severe pain, which causes discomfort while eating, swallowing or even breathing. Sometimes antibiotics are used to treat the condition, but usually patients have to undergo surgery to drain out the abscess.
- Glue ear in children: When the tonsils enlarge due to infection, the adenoids (part of the same group as tonsils and lymph nodes) swell up and block the narrow tube that runs from the throat to the middle ear. This tube is called the Eustachian tube, which remains blocked allowing the release of a sticky fluid in the middle ear. This may interfere with the child’s hearing—thus called a glue ear.
Since most cases of tonsillitis report viral infections, treatment is based on alleviating the symptoms, rather than the condition itself—such as fever and pain. You may use paracetamol to alleviate pain and other over-the-counter pain killers. Do NOT give aspirin to children and teenagers, if they are having tonsillitis or any other form of infection.
Swallowing can be difficult for young children due to the severe pain, therefore, give them cool (not cold) drinks, ice cream and ice blocks. Try not to worry much if your child does not eat for a few days due to the discomfort, they often pick up with their meals once they have recovered.
Antibiotics may help some people but they are usually unnecessary forms of treatment. It is true that having antibiotics while having a viral infection can lead to further symptoms such as rashes.
If a victim is suffering from recurrent episodes of tonsillitis throughout the year, it may help to remove the tonsils surgically to stop its symptoms. However, bear in mind that the surgery can be unsafe and therefore, many doctors do not recommend it.
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