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Tonsillitis- an Infection of Part of Your Immune System

Back in the day, when a child developed a case of tonsillitis, or an inflammation of the tonsils caused by a viral or bacterial infection, the treatment was simple; they came out. Fast forward to the present time and you will find doctors reluctant to treat tonsillitis by removing the culprits, opting instead to treat the tonsils for the infections. The advancement in antibiotics has enabled physicians to treat tonsillitis differently, as the tonsils are parts of a child’s immune system.

Tonsils are two small groups of tissue located on either side of the throat, embedded in the side of the roof of the mouth. The lower edge of your tonsils is besides the tongue, in the back of the throat. Composed mostly of lymphoid tissue, the tonsils filter harmful bacteria and virus that can precipitate infections in the body. Tonsillitis occurs when your tonsils become infected by some of these organisms, causing symptoms such as fever and chills, a bad sore throat, trouble and pain swallowing, headaches, and potential loss of voice. Tonsillitis makes your tonsils enlarged and red, and there may be white patches on it as well. The lymph nodes in the jaws and neck may become enlarged as they try to filter out the infection. The bacteria that enter your nose and mouth are often filtered out by the tonsils, which surround the offending bacteria with white blood cells. The result is a low grade infection of tonsils. However, it can be completely overwhelmed by some of these infections, and the resulting tonsillitis is often caused by either the virus that is responsible for mononucleosis or the one that causes strep throat.

Tonsillitis can now be treated differently than a couple decades ago because of better antibiotics. Tonsillitis caused by a viral infection is often allowed to run its course. It may take as long as two weeks, but the patient is urged to simply get plenty of rest and drink warm liquids such as broth, soup, and tea. Gargling with warm water is advised and such medications as Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol are given to relieve pain symptoms. Bacterial tonsillitis is treated as a horse of a different color, with more aggressive antibiotics used for at least a week and a half. Your doctor will stress the importance of taking the medicine for the full course of the prescription, to avoid the chance of the infection returning.

A tonsillectomy is necessary nowadays only under certain conditions. The most common reason for taking tonsils out is that they become so enlarged that they interfere with a child’s ability to breathe. Severe snoring can be one result of enlarged tonsils, as can sleep apnea, where the child’s breathing while asleep is blocked by the tonsils. Chronic tonsillitis also will get it removed eventually; seven episodes of tonsillitis in a year or five a year over a two year period is usually the limit a doctor will let the child endure before having tonsils removed. A form of tonsillitis known as chronic cryptic tonsillitis develops when a terrible smelling, white composition of bacteria and dead cells becomes impacted in the pockets of the tonsils. This can cause a sore throat, and the physician may eventually opt to remove the tonsils.

The removal of tonsils is most often done on an outpatient basis, and can even be accomplished with just a local anesthesia in the affected region and sedation. The throat will be sore after the surgery is performed, and ear pain is another possibility. The child will be given something cold such as ice cream, frozen pops, or ice cubes to soothe the soreness in the throat. While recovering, the child will be more susceptible than normal to infections, and will be made to avoid exposure to anyone who is ill. Any bleeding in the mouth will need to be immediately brought to the attention of your doctor.

Although adults can develop tonsillitis, the vast bulk of cases are in children, most of those in kids that are from six to age twelve. Frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent tonsillitis, but good luck with your kids on that one. The removal of one’s tonsils has no ill effects on the immune system, and there are literally millions of adults walking around without theirs. But as medical science further studies the role of your tonsils, they may eventually be revealed as more important than we think.