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Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, two oval pillows of tissue in the throat – one tonsil on each side. Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include swollen tonsils, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by infection with a common virus, but bacterial infections can cause tonsillitis as well.
Because the appropriate treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause, a quick and accurate diagnosis is important. Surgery to remove tonsils, which was once a common procedure for treating tonsillitis, is usually only done if the tonsillitis is common, unresponsive to other treatments, or causes serious complications.
Tonsillitis most commonly affects children between preschool ages and mid-teens. Common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include:
Red and puffy almonds
White or yellow coating or spots on the tonsils
Difficult or painful swallowing
Enlarged and tender lymph nodes (lymph nodes) in the neck
A squeaky, muffled, or hoarse voice
Neck pain or stiff neck
Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by common viruses, but bacterial infections can also be the cause.
The most common bacteria that cause tonsillitis are Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus), the bacteria that cause strep throat. Other strains of strep and other bacteria can also cause tonsillitis.
Risk factors for tonsillitis are:
Young age. Tonsillitis most commonly affects children, and bacterial tonsillitis is more common in children between the ages of 5 and 15 years.
Frequent exposure to germs. School-age children are in close contact with their peers and are often exposed to viruses or bacteria that can cause tonsillitis.
The germs responsible for viral and bacterial tonsillitis are contagious. So the best prevention is good hygiene. Teach your child:
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the toilet and before eating
Avoid sharing food, glasses, water bottles, or utensils
Replace your toothbrush after you have been diagnosed with tonsillitis
To help your child prevent a bacterial or viral infection from spreading to others:
Keep your child at home when they are sick
Ask your doctor when your child can go back to school
Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or, if necessary, into their elbows
Teach your child to wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.