What Are Tonsils?
Tonsils are lymphoid tissue and what they do is they sit in the back of the throat and they catch certain bacteria, some viruses themselves, that can then go into the rest of the body and what they do is they act as a protective function. Now, sometimes the tonsils themselves, while catching bacteria and viruses, can get infected and that presents as a sore throat. Consequently, as the patient gets a sore throat, or your child gets a sore throat, they’re going to complain about that. Now, many of these infections are viral and they’ll pass by themselves.
What we don’t want to do is treat them as all bacterial infections, which require antibiotics. So what I would recommend you do then is you go to your pediatrician or you go to an ear, nose and throat doctor like myself. What we’ll do is we’ll examine your child or yourself, if in fact you have an infection and we’ll do a culture. Sometimes we can do a culture right there in the office that will tell us whether or not this is a bacterial infection. But most of the time, these are viral infections that will pass.
One of the concerns is that we give antibiotics unnecessarily and as you know, what happens with time is that you can develop a resistance. So once again, that is why it’s important to go to your doctor and have them do culture, to see if the bacteria is growing. Now, the tonsils themselves, once they become infected will respond typically to antibiotics. Over the course of the next several days, your child or yourself will gradually get better, most of the time.
Tonsillitis can be easily mistaken for a simple sore throat if you don’t know what signs you’re looking for. These include particularly bad breath, which is a distinct sign of infection to the tonsil. You may notice that your tonsils are enlarged or that there are yellow or white patches on your tonsil.
At what point should a doctor be consulted for tonsillitis? Tonsillitis can usually be left alone and be expected to resolve itself but there are certain things that you’d like to look for. One such symptom is fever. Although the body can withstand a certain degree of fever, temperatures above 39.5 celsius are a cause of concern. Similarly, persistent symptoms or excessive pain should receive medical attention.
Are there any symptoms of tonsillitis that would require immediate medical attention? Generally speaking, tonsillitis does not require emergency treatment but there are certain exceptions. Patients with a high fever may be in danger and should be brought in to treatment as soon as possible. Another common effect of tonsillitis is engorged tonsils. If the tonsils begin to block the airway or rupture or begin to bleed, what you want to do is tilt your head to one side and seek emergency medical assistance.
One of the most common causes of tonsillitis is failure to maintain proper oral hygiene. Improperly brushing your teeth or failing to clean oral soft tissue will lead to additional bacteria or viruses building up in the oral cavity including the tonsils. Parents wondering where tonsillitis comes from in their children may need to supervise the brushing more. In many younger children it can also simply be a factor of the body encountering a new disease agent that it has not been exposed to previously.
What factors can exacerbate tonsillitis? Most of the throat conditions can exacerbate the effects of tonsillitis, including the aforementioned strep throat, fever, and the common cold. If you believe that you have contracted more than one condition, you should take extra care to avoid transmitting them to others. And try to see a doctor sooner than if you only had tonsillitis. You should have a lab test done to determine which conditions presently are affecting you and which, if any of them, can be treated simultaneously.
Are there certain conditions or diseases that can be associated with tonsillitis or distinguished from tonsillitis that may be confusing? Certainly the main one would be Mononucleosis – something we call an infectious mono. Now infectious mono is actually a virus, and so consequently, it may give the appearance of a tonsillitis, but in fact would not respond to an antibiotic. In fact, with certain antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin specifically, it can actually make the condition worse. So that’s called acute tonsillitis. That’s when you get the immediate infection and it requires a treatment.