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In recent years, treatment for tonsillitis has changed dramatically. The main focus is no longer on surgical removal of your child's tonsils (tonsillectomy), because it's now known that tonsils serve an important immune function in the body. Furthermore, the old idea that children who have their tonsils removed are less susceptible to colds and other respiratory diseases is just that — an old idea. Still, surgery may be the best option for some children.

Tonsillitis resulting from a streptococcal infection is usually treated with an antibiotic such as penicillin. Sometimes, especially in a young child who is having difficulty swallowing, penicillin is given by injection. Oral antibiotics typically need to be taken for at least 10 days. Although your child will likely feel better in a day or two, it's important to finish the full course of antibiotics. Stopping medication early may cause the infection to come back, which can lead to potentially serious complications.

Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for the viruses that cause tonsillitis. This means you and your child will need to focus on comfort measures while the viral infection runs its course. It may take a week or two before your child is fully recovered.

In certain cases, your doctor may recommend that your child's tonsils be removed. This option is usually pursued only if repeated bouts of tonsillitis affect your child's general health or interfere with his or her breathing. In general, your child may be a candidate for tonsillectomy if he or she meets one of the following criteria:

  • Seven or more episodes of tonsillitis in one year

  • Five or more episodes of tonsillitis each year over a period of two years

  • Three or more episodes of tonsillitis a year for a period of three years

  • Tonsillitis that recurs despite treatment with antibiotics

  • Airway or swallowing obstruction due to swollen tonsils

Doctors usually perform tonsillectomy on an outpatient basis. That means your child will be able to go home the day of the surgery. A complete recovery may take up to two weeks, however.

Following surgery, your child's throat may be quite sore. He or she also may have some ear pain. Sucking on an ice cube can relieve some of this discomfort. So can eating ice cream or sherbet — much better options from your child's point of view — and drinking cold liquids. Using a cool-mist humidifier in your child's room may help, too. But remember to clean the humidifier daily because bacteria and mold spores sometimes flourish in humidifiers.

During the first week after surgery, try to keep your child away from crowds and avoid exposure to people who may be ill. Your child is more susceptible to infection during this time. Also, keep in mind that although removing tonsils may reduce the risk of throat infections, it won't necessarily prevent them completely.


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:27 AM