Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils (the cluster of soft tissue at the back of the throat), caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It generally occurs in children 5–10 years of age. The duration of the disease is usually 4–6 days. Tonsillitis is contagious and is spread by direct contact with infected respiratory secretions.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Signs and symptoms include throat pain (may be mild or severe), chills and fever, swollen lymph glands, difficulty swallowing, headache, and earache. A throat culture is needed to determine the cause and proper treatment of tonsillitis. Possible complications of tonsillitis are abscess of the tonsils; chronic tonsillitis; and rheumatic fever, if the cause is a strep infection and it is not treated.

The best treatment includes rest and adequate fluids. If the cause is bacterial (strep), antibiotics will be prescribed for 10 days. Tylenol or Advil can be used for the pain and fever. Gargling with a salt water solution or other soothing liquid may help with the pain and irritation. A cool-mist vaporizer may also help relieve the cough and irritation. Side effects of the antibiotics include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The DOs
• Take antibiotics until finished.
• Increase fluid intake.
• Follow a liquid diet with soups and milkshakes if swallowing is difficult. Gradually progress to solid foods as tolerated.
• Rest in bed until the fever subsides.
• Avoid contact with others until symptoms are gone.
• Practice good hand washing to avoid spreading the infection to other family members.
• Avoid eating or drinking from the same utensils.
• Increase activity gradually after the fever has been gone for 2–3 days.
The DON’Ts
• Don’t stop antibiotics until finished. Symptoms may disappear before the bacterial infection is completely cleared.
• Don’t share drinking glasses or food.
• Don’t give aspirin to a child because it has been shown to be associated with the development of Reye’s syndrome.
• Don’t eat spicy or irritating foods.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If severe swelling of the tonsils occurs and breathing becomes difficult.
• If your fever has gone away for a few days and suddenly returns (temperature greater than 101°F).
• If new symptoms appear, such as a rash, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a cough that produces thick or discolored sputum.