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Health Information For Parents
A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. The abscess can be very painful and make it difficult to open the mouth.
It can also cause swelling that can push the tonsil toward the uvula (the dangling fleshy object at the back of the mouth). This can block the throat, making it hard to swallow, speak, and sometimes even breathe.
An abscess that’s not promptly treated can lead to a spread of the infection into the neck and chest, and other serious complications.
Most peritonsillar abscesses are caused by the same bacteria (group A streptococcus) that cause strep throat. Sometimes other types of bacteria are also involved.
Peritonsillar abscesses usually happen as a complication of tonsillitis, when the infection spreads from a tonsil into the space around it. Fortunately, these kinds of abscesses are uncommon because doctors use antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.
Tooth or gum disease and smoking can increase a person’s chances of developing an abscess.
The first sign of a peritonsillar abscess usually is a sore throat. As the abscess develops, other symptoms start, such as:
An abscess that goes untreated for a long time can lead to serious complications — for example, the infection may spread into the jaw, neck, and chest. If the abscess ruptures, the infection may lead to pneumonia.
Call a doctor if your child has a sore throat along with a fever or any of the other symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess. It’s rare that an abscess will restrict breathing, but if it does, you might need to take your child to the emergency room right away.
The doctor will examine your child’s mouth, throat, and neck. The doctor also might do a throat culture and a blood test. Rarely, a doctor may order a CT scan or ultrasound to help make the diagnosis.
The usual treatment for a peritonsillar abscess involves draining it. This can be done in a doctor’s office by withdrawing the pus with a needle (called aspiration) or making a small cut in the abscess with a scalpel so the pus can drain out.
If this doesn’t work, the tonsils might need to be removed in a tonsillectomy. This is especially true for kids who have had multiple recent cases of tonsillitis or a prior peritonsillar abscess.
Kids who have a tonsillectomy may need a brief stay in the hospital. That way, doctors can keep an eye on them to make sure everything went as planned.
The doctor probably will prescribe pain relievers and antibiotics. Make sure your child finishes the full course of antibiotics, even if he or she feels better after a few days. Otherwise, the infection could come back.
The quicker a peritonsillar abscess is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. So if you notice symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Practicing good oral hygiene can help kids avoid getting a peritonsillar abscess. And teens shouldn’t smoke because — among other health risks — smoking can increase their chances of developing an abscess.
An abscess is a sign of an infection, usually on the skin. Find out what to do if your child develops one.
People can get abscesses on the skin, under the skin, in a tooth, or even inside the body. Most abscesses are caused by infection, so it can help to know what to do. Find out in this article for teens.
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.
Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.
Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our mouth and teeth play an important role in our daily lives. Here’s a course on the basics – including common problems of the mouth and teeth.
Tonsillitis is an infection that makes tonsils swollen and red. It can cause a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and trouble swallowing.
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.
Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease – and they’re so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.
Washing your hands well and often is the best way to keep from getting sick. Here’s how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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