Medical condition that develops due to swelling of tonsils, ball shaped lymphatic tissues present at the back of the throat on either side of the neck is termed as tonsillitis. It is a contagious disease that generally develops due to bacterial or viral infections. In an attempt to fight the infection tonsils produce more number of white blood cells that fight against microorganisms. Tonsillitis is commonly observed in toddlers and in mid teenage children that are frequently exposed to bacteria and viruses especially from peers suffering with infections. Tonsillitis is not generally observed after puberty as tonsils cease to act as first line of defense against bacteria entering the body through mouth.
Types of tonsillitis
- Acute tonsillitis: Infection of tonsils caused by virus or bacteria.
- Chronic tonsillitis: Recurring and persistent infection of tonsils that can result in formation of tonsil stones.
Commonly observed tonsillitis symptoms include
- Yellowish or white colored patch on tonsils.
- Swollen red colored tonsils.
- Pain while swallowing.
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
- Tender lymph nodes in the neck region.
- Muffled voice.
- Bad breath.
- Coughing up blood.
- Stomach ache in small children.
- Ear pain.
Toddlers who fail to express their symptoms show unusual fussiness and avoid taking food due to difficulty while swallowing.
Complications of tonsillitis
Untreated or delay in treatment of tonsillitis results in serious complications that even result in death.
- Difficulty to breath and snoring.
- Sleep apnea characterized by disrupted breathing in sleep.
- Tonsillar cellulitis caused due to spread of infection to the tissues surrounding tonsils.
- Peritonsillar abscess: Blocking of feeding and breathing pathways by swollen tonsils. Collection of puss behind the tonsils is also observed.
- Rheumatic fever: Inflammatory disorder affecting heart, joints and various other tissues.
- Post streptococcal glomerulonephritis: Characterized by inflammation of kidneys that results in overloading of blood with waste, fluids and toxins.
Rheumatic fever and post streptococcal glomerulonephritis are rare complications and develop due to incomplete treatment of bacterial tonsillitis or other streptococcal infections.
It is very important seek immediate medical attention if the child is finding difficulty to breath, drooling extensively and cannot swallow food.
Acute tonsillitis can be treated by following simple home remedies and by using required medications. Even chronic conditions can be treated by removing tonsils surgically. For accurate treatment it is important to diagnose the cause of the diseases i.e. whether it is a bacterial or viral infection. Diagnosis of tonsillitis is done through physical examination of throat, listening to the breath, rapid strept test, culturing of throat swabs to identify whether it is a bacterial or viral infection and by knowing the complete blood cell count. Treatment strategy is planned depending on the cause of tonsillitis.
- Rest: The child should be allowed to sleep for long hours. Extent of speaking should be reduced to let the throat rest.
- Taking plenty of fluids: It is important to take more amounts of fluids to keep the throat moist and also to prevent dehydration. Taking warm fluids helps to soothe the strained throat.
- Salt water gargling: This is perfect remedy to treat tonsillitis and sore throat. Salt arrests the growth of microorganisms and promotes faster recovery. Tonsillitis symptoms such as muffled or scratchy voice also gets relieved with salt water gargling.
- Stay away from irritants: It is important to keep the child away from throat irritants such as cigarette smoke.
- Over the counter pain medications: drugs such as ibuprofen can be used to relieve throat pain and fever. Do not give aspirin to children below 20 years of age.
- Breathing in warm vapor: Breathing in vapors of water mixed with turmeric or eucalyptus oil helps to relieve stuffiness of nose and headache.
If tonsillitis symptoms do not get relieved with these simple home remedies then medications suggested by physician should be used.
- Medications: Tonsillitis caused by virus subsides on its own. Use of antibiotics is also of no use. Antihistamines, antiseptic mouthwashes also do not help to relieve viral tonsillitis symptoms. Tonsillitis caused by bacteria such as streptococci can be relieved by using antibiotics such as penicillin and erythromycin. Patients who are allergic to penicillin are given erythromycin. Like viral tonsillitis, bacterial tonsillitis also relieves on its own. However, antibiotics should be used to avoid complications. Antibiotics suggested by the physician should be used for the prescribed period to prevent bacteria from developing resistance against that specific antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance makes it hard to treat future infections using the same antibiotic.
- Surgery: Surgical treatment is used to relieve recurring tonsillitis symptoms and to treat chronic tonsillitis that does not respond to any treatment. Tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils) prevents development of complications. Tonsillectomy is performed after evaluating the health condition of the patient and only if the advantages of performing the surgery outweigh the disadvantages. Lasers, ultrasonic energy, radiowaves or electrocautery are used to cut, evaporate or burn the swollen tonsils. Traditional method of tonsillectomy is performed using a scalpel.
After surgery the child experiences throat pain and pain in the neck, ear and jaws. These after surgery symptoms can be relieved by allowing the child to take plenty of rest and healthy diet. Very little amount of blood may be observed in saliva or may bleed from nose. Immediate medical attention should be given if the large amount of bright red blood is observed or if the fever is above 102 degrees.
Tonsillitis caused by bacteria or viral infection can be prevented by maintaining proper hygiene. Preventive measure that can help to save your child from painful tonsillitis symptoms include:
- Stay away from people who are sick especially those having upper respiratory tract infections, sore throat and tonsillitis.
- Avoid sharing utensils or other things used by sick people.
- Disinfect toys or utensils used by child suffering with tonsillitis.
- Use disposable wipes or hand sanitizer before sharing any of the items at public places.
It is responsibility of the diseased people to use tissue paper or a cloth to cover the nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing to prevent spread of disease.
With proper hygiene, healthy diet and appropriate treatment strategy it is very easy to combat tonsillitis symptoms. However, early diagnosis helps in faster recovery and complications.