Tonsillitis

Tonsils are at the back of your throat on either side. You have two oval-shaped pads of tissues. Tonsillitis is the inflammation of these tissues. Viral infections on most occasions are the cause, but bacterial infections too can cause this condition. In general, Infection of tonsils is called tonsillitis. Though it is a common paediatric issue, it can also trouble adults.

Tonsillitis

What are the Symptoms of tonsillitis?

  • Pain in throat
  • Sore throat
  • Throat pain
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Fever (Sometimes)
  • The difficulty is swallowing (Odynophagia)
  • Drooling of saliva in kids
  • Neck swelling due to enlarged lymph nodes reactive to tonsillitis
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Lethargy / malaise/ body aches
  • Change in voice
  • Halitosis (Bad Breath)
  • Neck pain leading to a stiff neck

Symptoms in very young children are somewhat different as they are unable to describe them properly. Children show unusual fuzziness, refusal to eat, painful swallowing – which is manifested as drooling.

Accurate diagnosis is very important – especially for children if they have symptoms which suggest tonsillitis.

What causes tonsillitis?

Viral infections cause tonsillitis in the majority of the cases, but bacterial infections can also cause it. Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) causes tonsilitis. The same bacteria cause strep throat. Even other microbes and strains of streptococcus may also cause this condition.

Risk Factors

Young age (5 to 15 years) and frequent exposure to microbes – viruses and bacteria are the two main risk factors for tonsillitis.

What happens if you don’t treat tonsillitis?

Frequent infections and the ongoing problem may lead to obstructive sleep apnea, peritonsillar abscess (collection of pus in the tonsil) and tonsillar cellulitis (an infection that has spread deep).

Untreated strep infection (tonsillitis caused by group A streptococci) or when antibiotic treatment remains incomplete, then the risk of rare disorders such as rheumatic fever – which affects the heart, skin and nervous system – increases. In addition, the risk for post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis and joint inflammation increases.

What is the treatment for Tonsillitis?

There are two types of treatment for tonsillitis: medical and surgical. Treatment depends on the indications.

Medication

After a complete physical examination and symptomatic evaluation and based on test results, if the bacterial infection is found to be the cause, then the doctor prescribes antibiotics and if it is a viral infection, then general supportive treatment without antibiotics will be given.

Tonsillectomy surgery

ENT doctors mostly try to keep tonsils intact as they are an important part of your immune system. But if tonsillitis persists for long, or if swollen tonsils make it hard for you to breathe or eat, your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy. Surgical removal of tonsils is a daycare procedure. ENT doctors also use electrocautery, lasers and radio waves to treat tonsillitis (enlarged tonsils). Discuss your options with your doctor to decide the best treatment for you.

Tonsillectomy Recovery

Tonsillectomy is a daycare procedure that lasts less than an hour. The removal of tonsils is done on an outpatient basis. There is no need to stay in the hospital. The patient can go home after a few hours. Most patients recover in less than a week or up to 10 days. While recovering you may have pain in the neck, jaw and throat.

Indications for Surgery

  • Recurrent tonsillitis throughout the year from the past 2 years
  • Peritonsillar abscess
  • Unilateral (One side) tonsillar hypertrophy
  • Raise ASO titres (Suggestive of streptococcal infection)

Tonsillitis Prevention

  • The best way to prevent tonsillitis is through good hygiene, as it spreads by aerosols.
  • Hand hygiene (Washing or sanitizing)
  • Not sharing food, drink, utensils, or personal items like toothbrushes with anyone
  • Maintaining healthy social distance from sick or suspected people around.
  • Avoiding going to gatherings or office if you are feeling down.

When should you seek an ENT doctor’s appointment?

Seek an appointment with an ENT doctor if your child is experiencing fussiness, fatigue or extreme weakness with painful swallowing, a sore throat and fever.  You should immediately consult an ENT specialist if your child is experiencing excessive drooling, swallowing difficulty and breathing difficulty.

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