Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsillar tissue at the back of the throat. They resemble two pads of tissue tucked in the back where your mouth narrows towards the throat.
Tonsils function in the immune system. They are tasked to produce white blood cells to fight viral and bacterial infections. This leaves them open to becoming overwhelmed and infected themselves.
So how do you know that you have tonsillitis? The throat can become sore. Usually the doctor will diagnose you with strep throat. This is a bacterial sore throat that is caused by streptococcus. Strep throat is contagious so you will be treated with antibiotics so you won’t pass it to others.
A bout of tonsillitis may also be accompanied by a scratchy throat, red tonsils upon examination, enlarged lymph glands in the neck, headache, stiff neck and bad breath. You may also notice a fever and difficulty swallowing because of the enlargement of the tonsils.
As a parent you may not know how to identify enlarged tonsils or even a coating over the tonsils. If your child is too young to talk, they may refuse to eat, drool endlessly and also become fussy more often than normal.
Now, a single sore throat does not signal tonsillitis, but in combination with other symptoms it can alert you that something more is going on in your mouth or that of your child.
There is a tier of treatment for tonsillitis. Even though your child is in pain, surgery is not the first option. Before any treatment is done, your doctor will perform a few diagnostic tests. They will take a throat swab.
This can be processed through a rapid strep test to give a doctor a heads up on whether you are likely to have strep. Another swab is sent out to the lab for a full testing with results coming back in about two days. A positive test usually signals a bacterial infection.
A CBC (complete blood count) is done to detect the presence of elevated white blood cell levels. White blood cells are deployed to fight infections and usually occur in conjunction with a fever.
For a strep throat, your doctor will likely order antibiotics to clear up the infection. Remember to take the antibiotics for the full ten days to be sure that the infection is gone.
Surgery is considered after a certain number of strep throat infections have occurred. Here the tonsillar tissue is removed completely, thus removing the cause of the infection. The tonsils are removed sooner if they have swollen to obstruct the airway.
Tonsillitis is a painful condition that mostly affects children. While surgery is not prescribed right away, it is often the end result.