What is it?

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Tonsillitis is an infection in the tonsils (two small mounds of tissue at the back of the throat) caused most often caused by a type of bacteria called streptococcus. Viruses and other types of bacteria like staphylococcus may also cause it. The mode of infection is by droplets from the air of an infected person or spread from the nose. It is a disease of childhood and adolescence.

What are the symptoms?

They are dry or sore throat, fever, headache, malaise and increasing pain on swallowing, the pain sometimes spreading up to the ears.

Children under 5 years don’t often say they have a sore throat, because they don’t know where the pain is coming from. They may say they have a tummy ache.

What treatments work?

Treatment is usually conservative. The doctor may prescribe bed rest, enough fluid intake and antibiotics for 5 days. Nasal decongestants may also be useful in children who may be easily have nasal obstruction. Gargles and mouthwashes are useful. Taking painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, or ibuprofen should help you feel better.

The tonsils usually return to their normal small sizes after an infection. But if the infection keeps coming back, they may remain permanently enlarged and harder. This may cause bacteria and debris to accumulate there causing mouth odour and infections. At this point, surgery may become needed.

What will happen to me?

Tonsillitis usually clears up on its own. However, people may get more serious problems from having tonsillitis. These include pus accumulation around the throat, middle ear infection, rheumatic fever, heart, kidney and joint diseases.