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Health Information For Kids
Way in the back of your throat are your tonsils — one on the right and one on the left. They are part of your body’s infection-fighting system to keep you from getting sick.
But what happens if these infection fighters get infected? Then you have tonsillitis (say: tahn-suh-LYE-tus).
The tonsils’ job is to help fight germs that come in through our mouth or nose before they cause infections in the rest of the body. Usually, tonsils do their job well. But sometimes bacteria or viruses get into the tonsils and infect them. When this happens, you have tonsillitis.
If you have tonsillitis, your throat usually hurts and it’s hard to eat, drink, or even swallow. You also might have a fever.
Here are some other signs that bacteria or a virus are infecting your tonsils:
The doctor will ask you how you’ve been feeling and then look at your tonsils. He or she will probably use a wooden stick called a tongue depressor to help hold your tongue down to get a good look at what’s going on in there.
The doctor also might look into your nose and ears, listen to your chest, feel your neck, and look for other signs of infection. Bacteria and viruses both can cause tonsillitis. It’s important for your doctor to know if it’s caused by strep bacteria. If you have this kind of infection, known as strep throat, you need medicine to kill the strep bacteria.
To check for strep, the doctor will use a long cotton swab to swipe the back of your throat. This test, called a throat culture, doesn’t hurt but can feel a little weird. Your doctor may use the swab to do a test called a rapid strep test. Within minutes, this test will tell your doctor if there are any strep bacteria in your throat. If it’s positive, you have strep throat. If it’s negative, the doctor will send a sample to a lab for testing and get the result in a couple of days.
If the tonsillitis is caused by strep bacteria, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics, a type of medicine that kills bacteria. It’s very important to take the antibiotics exactly as directed and to finish the entire prescription — even if you start feeling better in a few days — or the infection could come back.
If the tonsillitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t work and your body will fight off the infection on its own.
Sometimes kids get an operation to remove their tonsils, but only if their tonsils get infected a lot or are so big they make it hard for the kid to breathe at night.
If you get tonsillitis, here are some tips that can help you feel better:
Soon your tonsils will be back in action and ready to fight germs again!
Sometimes tonsils need to be removed, but how is it done? Find out in this article for kids.
Surgeries and operations happen in the operating room, sometimes called the OR. Find out more in this article for kids.
It may seem scary to go to a hospital, but doctors and nurses are there to help people who are sick or hurt feel better. Read our article for kids to find out what happens inside a hospital.
When you go to the doctor for a checkup, it’s because your parents and your doctor want to see that you’re growing just the way you should. Read all about what happens at the doctor’s office.
Just what are adenoids? And why do kids sometimes have to get their adenoids removed? Get the answers here.
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.
What are fevers? Why do kids get them? Get the facts on temperatures and fevers in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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