What are tonsils?

Tonsils are glands that work like an army to help the body fight against infections. It’s located at the side and the back of the throat.

What is tonsillitis?

It is an infection of the tonsil glands, which is commonly caused by viruses and only 15% caused by bacteria.

How does one diagnose tonsillitis?

A child with tonsillitis usually is unwell. He may have:

  • A fever.
  • Difficulty in swallowing due to a sore throat.
  • Bad breath.
  • Change of voice quality.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.

His tonsils will look

  • Large, red, and often with white patches on them.

Acute tonsillitis

How does one treat tonsillitis?

The following are helpful:

  • Medicine for fever and pain relief e.g. paracetamol.
  • Cool, soft, smooth foods and cool drinks.
  • Plenty of fluids.
  • Avoidance of hard, crunchy, spicy and hot foods.
  • Rest.
  • Antibiotic if bacteria suspected to be the cause.

When should tonsils be removed?

Removal tonsils (tonsillectomy) is considered:

  • Only if there are recurrent infections.
  • Big tonsils that prevent the child breathing and sleeping normally.

The doctor will evaluate each case individually and decide on the course of action to be taken.

Can tonsillitis be prevented?

  • Immunisation will prevent tonsillitis due to diphtheria.
  • Otherwise it is almost impossible to prevent it.
  • Avoiding contact with children who have coughs and colds may help to avoid an infection.

Can tonsillitis lead to more serious consequences besides a sorethroat?

Serious complications are recognised. They include:

  • Rheumatic fever if the cause was due to a specific bacteria ie streptococcus and antibiotic was not adequately taken. It may not have been prescribed, delayed or given for an insufficient duration of time.
  • Acute glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney) again following a streptococcal infection.
  • Quincy or peritonsillar abscess which can be medical emergency.
  • Repeated tonsillitis which is bad for health and may affect the child’s quality of life. Recurrent acute tonsillitis will lead to chronic tonsillitis with hypertrophic tonsils may lead to a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA.
Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Norrashidah Hj. Abd Wahab
  : Dr. Nor Mahani Harun
Reviewer : Dr. Norzila bt. Mohamed Zainudin