Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
Tonsillitis (tahn-suh-LYE-tus) is an infection of the tonsils. Tonsils are lumps of tissue on both sides of the back of the throat that help the immune system protect the body from infections. Inflamed tonsils get red and swollen and can cause a sore throat.
Inflamed tonsils look red and swollen, and may be covered with a yellow or whitish coating or spots. A child with tonsillitis may have:
Tonsillitis is usually caused by a
Bacteria also can cause it, most commonly group A streptococcus (strep throat). Rarely, tonsillitis can be caused by something other than an infection.
Anyone at any age can get tonsillitis. Strep throat is most common in kids and teens ages 5 to 15.
Health care providers will ask about symptoms and do an exam. They’ll check the inside of the mouth, the back of the throat, and the neck.
A health care provider may use a soft cotton swab to gently collect a sample from the tonsils and back of the throat. This can be:
If the rapid strep test doesn’t show signs of strep, the health care provider will depend on the culture for a final diagnosis.
It’s important to call your health care provider if your child has tonsillitis symptoms.
Treatment depends on whether the tonsillitis is caused by:
It’s important to finish the entire prescription — even if your child feels better in a few days — or the infection could come back. This also helps prevent a more serious health problem that streptococcus can cause, called rheumatic fever, which can damage the heart.
Rarely, a health care provider might recommend a tonsillectomy (surgery to remove the tonsils) if a child’s tonsils get infected a lot or are so big they make it hard to breathe at night. Tonsillectomy used to be very commonly done. Now, experts use guidelines to decide if tonsil removal is the best treatment. In general, tonsillectomy may be considered if a child has seven sore throat episodes in 1 year, five episodes 2 years in a row, or three episodes 3 years in a row.
Make sure that your child drinks lots of fluids and gets plenty of rest. If swallowing hurts, serve liquids and soft foods. Some kids prefer warm drinks, like soup or sweetened tea. Other kids like the feel of cold or frozen foods on their throat, such as milkshakes, smoothies, ice pops, or ice cream. Older kids can suck on hard candies or throat lozenges.
You can give a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for throat pain. Don’t give aspirin or other products that contain aspirin, though, because these can put kids at risk for Reye syndrome.
Tonsillitis is contagious. Sneezing and coughing can pass the germ causing the illness from one person to the next.
Try to keep kids away from anyone who already has tonsillitis or a sore throat, and make sure everyone in your family washes their hands well and often.
If someone in the family has tonsillitis, keep their drinking glasses and eating utensils separate, and wash them in hot, soapy water. They should not share food, drinks, napkins, or towels with other family members. Give them a new toothbrush after they’re treated and no longer contagious.
If the sore throat gets worse, especially on one side, call your doctor. This could be a sign of a peritonsillar abscess. This happens when bacteria spread from the tonsil to the space around it and fill it with pus. Other signss of an abscess include fever, headache, earache, drooling, or a muffled voice. Treating an abscess might be done in a hospital, possibly with surgery to drain the infection. Tonsillectomy may be considered for kids who get multiple peritonsillar abscesses.
Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. So, what are adenoids exactly?
Sometimes tonsils need to be removed, but how is it done? Find out in this article for kids.
Everybody’s heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. It’s one of the most common surgeries kids and teens get. Find out more.
A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. Find out how it happens and what to do.
Older kids and teens with tonsilitis sometimes develop this painful abscess, a pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth.
A rapid strep test is done to help quickly determine whether a sore throat is caused by a strep infection vs. other germs (usually viruses) that don’t require antibiotic treatment.
Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat in kids and teens. It usually requires treatment with antibiotics, but improves in a few days.
Are you a kid who snores? Find out why some people are such noisy sleepers in this article for kids.
Strep throat is a common infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. Find out how to recognize the signs of strep throat and what to expect if you have it.
If your tonsils get infected, it can make your throat feel very sore. Find out more in this article for kids.
Just what are adenoids? And why do kids sometimes have to get their adenoids removed? Get the answers here.
You wake up and your throat is swollen and you have a fever. Could it be tonsillitis? Find out what tonsillitis is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Is your child having a strep test or a throat culture? Find out how these swab tests are performed.
Enlarged adenoids are normal some kids, but others need surgery. Often, tonsils and adenoids are removed at the same time.
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.