Tonsil infections in children (Tonsillitis)
Tonsillitis is a common childhood infection where the tonsils become inflamed. The tonsils are the glands found at the back of the throat and are part of the body’s immune system, helping to fight germs in the mouth.
Tonsillitis is often caused by a viral infection, and less often by a bacterial infection.
The viral infections which cause tonsillitis (such as a cold or flu) can be contagious, and so you should try to minimise the spread by:
- Staying off work and keeping your child at home until they are better
- Encouraging your child to wash their hands regularly, and after coughing or sneezing
- Throwing away any tissues your child uses when coughing or sneezing
Causes of tonsillitis in children:
Tonsillitis can be caused by infections that are spread via coughs, colds or the flu.
The main symptoms of tonsillitis in children include:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty and/or pain swallowing
- A high temperature or fever (38c or higher)
- A headache
- Feeling sick
- Feeling tired
- Earache or ear pain
- Hoarse or no voice
- Loss of appetite
More severe symptoms can include:
- Swollen and painful glands in the neck. You can check your child by feeling for lumps on the sides of their neck
- White spots on the back of the throat
- Bad breath
Symptoms usually worsen for the first two to three days before getting better.
If your child has tonsillitis, they may feel generally unwell and tired, with the tonsils appearing red and swollen.
Treatment options for tonsillitis in children
If your child has tonsillitis for the first time, you can take them to see the doctor. If they have a repeat episode, care and rest at home should be enough.
Symptoms of tonsillitis tend to disappear by themselves after 3 or 4 days but, there are things you can do to help ease your child’s symptoms, such as:
- Encourage plenty of rest
- Give your child cool drinks to soothe their throat
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. They may not want to if it is painful to swallow, but it is important to keep hydration levels up, especially if your child has a high temperature
- Give the recommended dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with the pain (ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice)
If your child has bacterial tonsillitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help treat the condition. However, tonsillitis is usually a viral infection and, in this instance, antibiotics will not be prescribed.
If your child is not feeling better, or symptoms do not appear to improve after three to four days, you should take your child to visit the doctor
If your child has recurring tonsillitis, they may be required to have their tonsils removed.
Tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures in the UK.
It is most frequently performed in children. Once you and your child have discussed the option of surgery with Mr Lakhani, you will be able to arrange a convenient date for the operation.
General (full anaesthesia)
Technique (method) of tonsil removal
Mr Lakhani will have a full discussion with you regarding the options for tonsil removal method. He will let you know about the specific benefits of each technique.
Full tonsil removal
This is where the tonsils are fully removed using surgical instruments. It can lead to more pain and higher risk of bleeding than other methods but has a higher success rate in stopping tonsil infections completely.
Coblation tonsil surgery
Mr Lakhani offers coblation tonsillectomy which involves vapourising the tonsil tissue using a radiofrequency device. This method typically results in less pain and a lower risk of bleeding. It can however, rarely, result in some of the tonsil tissue being left behind and mean that the tonsil infections continue.
Coblation tonsil surgery is normally the best choice for children with snoring and sleep apneoea, however it can be very successful in certain patients with recurring tonsil infections too. Mr Lakhani will fully discuss the option with you at your appointment.
- Bleeding is the most commonly encountered problem after having tonsil surgery. If you notice any bleeding, you should contact your surgeon
- Infection is uncommon after tonsillectomy. It is quite normal to have white and yellow discharge on the back of the throat after surgery. If you are having high fevers, however, then you should let your surgeon know
- Damage to teeth, lips and gums is also uncommon but you should inform your surgeon if there are any loose teeth
- Food and drink can taste a little different for a short while after surgery but should settle back to normal very quickly. Any long term problems are rare
You can be discharged home on the same day as surgery in most cases. Pain is managed with regular pain killers but can get worse after day 4 or 5 and then improves after day 9 or 10.
You will typically be advised to have 1-2 weeks off school to help prevent catching infections. Your child can re-commence sport and routine activities after this time.
Check-up after surgery
Mr Lakhani will routinely review you after surgery to inspect the throat and area where the tonsils were situated to ensure healing and recovery is as expected.