What used to be a pillar of childhood – removing the tonsils because of an infection – is becoming a rare occurrence. Understanding what tonsillitis is will ensure that you seek treatment quickly when needed.
Understanding a Tonsil Infection
Tonsillitis is a broad term for any infection of the tonsils caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. According to Dr. Kara Meister, head and neck surgeon at Stanford Children’s Health, “Strep throat is a common cause of tonsillitis, but it’s not the only cause.” She continues to explain, “There’s a misconception among parents that tonsillitis and strep throat are synonymous terms. This isn’t true.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strep throat is called by a bacteria called Streptococcus A. Viruses such the ones that causes the flu as well as colds can also lead to a sore throat.
While you can have a sore throat any time of year, late fall and winter are when doctors see cases increase. Understanding the difference between the symptoms from a virus and a bacterial infection can ensure you get the right treatment.
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection. Symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red tissues on the tonsils
A bacterial infection will include the addition of a high fever and a sore throat bad enough to prevent you from eating or swallowing liquids. If this happens, you should go to the doctor for a throat culture.
Treatment for Tonsillitis
The treatment for a viral infection is to let it run its course. Over-the-counter medications can help with the pain, and gargling with saltwater can help reduce inflammation.
If a throat swab comes back positive for a bacterial infection, the first course of treatment is antibiotics.
Untreated strep throat is very dangerous. Abscesses can form on the tonsils. These pockets of puss need to be drained by a doctor.
Additional consequences of untreated strep include:
- Pneumococcal disease
- Post-streptoccoccal glomerulonephritis
- Rheumatic fever
If you think you or your child may have tonsillitis, seek medical attention quickly. To learn more, contact the experts at Charleston ENT & Allergy today.