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Will Tonsillitis Go Away on Its Own?

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis may need to be treated with antibiotics if it's caused by a bacterial infection.
Tonsillitis may need to be treated with antibiotics if it's caused by a bacterial infection.

Tonsils are the two oval-shaped pads of tissue in the back of your throat. They help protect your body from infection. However, sometimes they get infected and inflamed (red and swollen) and this is called tonsillitis. The condition is usually seen in children.

Adenotonsillitis is a combined swelling of the tonsils and adenoids (organs similar to tonsils that are present in the upper wall of the mouth).

What are the causes of tonsillitis?

There are various causes of tonsillitis such as 

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

If you have tonsillitis, you may have

If you have pus in the tonsils (abscess), then you may additionally have

  • Inflamed (swollen, red) tonsils, usually only on one side
  • Severe pain and tenderness around the flexible soft part at the roof of the mouth
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Yellow or whitish discharge
  • Distinctively muffled speech/  hoarse voice

Will tonsillitis go away on its own?

Tonsillitis symptoms usually go away after three to four days. It is not transmissible. However, if the infection is caused by viruses that cause cold or flu, then it may infect others, too. 

The following tips may help stop the spread of infection

  • Keep your child at home until you and your child feel better.
  • Cover the mouth while coughing and sneezing.
  • Wash your/children’s hands after coughing or sneezing.

 

When should you call your doctor?

You must see an ENT specialist if you/your child has

  • Symptoms of tonsillitis
  • Noisy breathing
  • Severe, painful sore throat that quickly gets worse
  • Symptoms that do not go away after four days
  • Symptoms that are unresponsive to antibiotics
  • Fever
  • White spots or discharge from the tonsils (indicative of glandular fever due to Epstein-Barr virus or another infection)
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Ear pain

 Recurrent bouts of tonsillitis in your child may require surgery.

QUESTION

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How do I know if my child has tonsillitis?

Generally, acute tonsillitis is diagnosed with clinical examination of the mouth. However, it is difficult to distinguish between viral or bacterial infection.

You can check your child’s tonsils with a flashlight by gently placing a spoon on thier tongue. If your child is reluctant for this examination, do not insist. If you find your child’s tonsils are bright red and swollen, see a pediatrician or an ENT specialist/doctor

  • The doctor will examine the tonsils and soft palate to check for a tonsillar abscess.
  • Because viral and bacterial infections of tonsils look no different, your doctor may sometimes take a throat culture using a cotton swab in the back of your child’s throat to check for strep throat after examining your child’s tonsils.
  • Your doctor may order a blood test to rule out glandular fever if the symptoms are severe and will not go away.
  • Your doctor may ask for a rapid antigen test to check for bacterial tonsillitis. It has very low sensitivity. However, more accurate tests take longer - maybe a couple of days - to deliver results.
  • If these test results are negative, the doctor may ask for a bacterial culture to check the type of bacteria which takes 24 to 48 hours.

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Reviewed on 9/11/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

ENT Health


Guideline Central


Queensland Health


KidsHealth.org
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