The tonsils are small, dimpled balls of tissue that lie on either side of the back of your throat. They normally help to filter out bacteria and other germs to keep you healthy. However, when these glands become overwhelmed by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat or a viral infection like the common cold, they can swell up and cause tonsillitis.
Tonsilitis typically improves on its own within a week or so, without any treatment. But if your symptoms are severe or you have a fever, you should see your doctor to get a diagnosis.
Your doctor will examine your throat to look for redness and white spots on your tonsils, and may swab the back of your throat. They’ll also ask you about other symptoms such as a runny nose or cough.
If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, they’ll prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the bacteria and help to prevent them from spreading to other people.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking these drugs, and take them on time. Otherwise, your infection may come back and antibiotics will be ineffective.
Drink plenty of fluids to help you keep hydrated and avoid dehydration. It’s also important to eat soft foods, and avoid hard or sharp ones that can hurt the throat. Try warm soups or broth, or a cup of tea with honey and lemon to soothe your throat and ease discomfort.
Gargling with a simple mouthwash (such as warm salt water) can also help to relieve pain in the throat and reduce tickling in the back of your throat. You can make a saltwater mixture by adding a quarter of a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water, stirring it until the salt dissolves, then swishing it around your mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out.
If you have a high fever, your doctor might prescribe an over-the-counter medicine to reduce the temperature and help your body to fight the infection. The over-the-counter medicine can help you feel better and will also speed up your recovery.
Eating soft foods and drinking plenty of liquids can also help to ease the discomfort caused by tonsillitis. You should also limit the amount of food you eat until your tonsillitis is gone, as eating too much can make it worse.
Other strategies include giving your child ice blocks or popsicles to help with swallowing, and keeping them away from hard or spicy foods that can irritate their throat. You can give them over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat the pain and fever they may have.
A few days after you’ve recovered from your tonsillitis, it’s a good idea to have your doctor check your tonsils again. If your child’s tonsils are still swollen, they might have a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.
In some cases, your physician might recommend a surgery known as a tonsillectomy to remove the swollen tonsils. This operation is a last resort for those who have chronic or recurrent tonsillitis, have complications from the condition, or experience a poor quality of life due to the infection.