Tonsillitis is one of the most common childhood illnesses and usually occurs in children aged 3-7, but it still affects a large portion of the general population daily. The word tonsillitis is broad in its meaning, referring to any inflammation of the tonsils. The inflammation is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Bacterial tonsillitis only accounts for 15 per cent of all cases in Australia. It is spread by coughing and sneezing or by saliva (kissing or sharing drinks). The infection is acute and typically resolves itself within days to weeks.
What are the signs and symptoms of tonsillitis?
There are three main signs of tonsillitis. These are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing and tender lymph nodes. But there are several other symptoms that may also be experienced by a patient.
- Swollen tonsils
- Pain in the ears
- Pain while swallowing
- Congestion or runny nose
- Bad breath
- Excessive saliva,
Treatments for tonsillitis
According to the experts at House Call Doctor, treatments for tonsillitis can range from home remedies for symptom management, through to surgical removal. Medical assessment is required for diagnosis of tonsillitis, so your doctor will direct you to which treatment is most suited to you depending on the severity of your condition. Treatments can include:
Self-care: throat lozenges, salt-water gargles and tea with honey.
Medications: antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesic.
Surgery: removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy).
Tonsillectomies are performed when a patient has suffered recurring tonsillitis infections. The frequency needed for removal to be deemed necessary is seven times in one year, or five times a year for two years in a row. The procedure usually takes 30 minutes under general anesthetic. Regular work and school activities are typically able to be resumed within two weeks of surgery.
Complications of tonsillitis
Depending on the case, there can be complications with tonsillitis including:
- Chronic tonsillitis –simply, this is when the infection does not clear up and the affected person can continue feeling unwell.
- Quinsy –if the infection spreads to tissue in the throat surrounding the tonsils, it’s possible for an abscess to form which can cause severe pain and impact swallowing or breathing. Though antibiotics can help, sometimes surgery is necessary.
- Secondary infections –these infections usually spread to the affected person’s nose, ears or sinuses.
What is a tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is an operation recommended by a doctor for anyone who has frequent or severe cases of tonsillitis. Some reasons for a tonsillectomy can include:
- Breathing difficulties as a result of enlarged tonsils
- Frequent bouts of tonsillitis which are painful and uncomfortable
- Chronic tonsillitis which is still present despite antibiotics
- Frequent ear infections caused by tonsillitis
- Abscesses in the throat (otherwise known as quinsy).
Before performing a tonsillectomy, a doctor will complete a physical check-up to ensure the operation is necessary. Parts of a physical check-up will include taking note if there is abnormal bleeding tendencies on the tonsil pad which usually has a large blood supply.