Common childhood illnesses often affect the throat, causing the tonsils to swell and redden. Viruses and bacteria can make your child’s tonsils swell, as well as increase his risk of developing other symptoms. While swollen tonsils can cause discomfort, certain practices can help ease the pain. Depending on the extent of his symptoms, your child may need to see his pediatrician.
Tonsils are two small glands located at the back of the throat. Tonsils help protect your child’s body from bacteria and other microorganisms. You may have difficulty seeing these two oval-shaped lymph nodes inside your child’s throat when he is well; however, during an illness, these glands can swell and cause soreness.
Tonsillitis is the term for the symptom of inflamed and swollen tonsils. Your child’s tonsils produce disease-fighting white blood cells in response to bacteria and viruses, providing a first line of defense against germs that enter your mouth.
Your child may complain of a sore throat or pain and difficulty when swallowing. His tonsils may appear red and swollen. You may notice white or yellow patches covering his tonsils. Along with his swollen tonsils, he may run a fever and have bad breath. Other symptoms that can accompany tonsillitis include headache, stiff neck, fussiness and stomachache. A sore throat that lasts longer than two days or a fever above 103 degrees Fahrenheit requires a visit to your child’s pediatrician. Contact the pediatrician immediately if your child is drooling or has difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Help ease your child’s discomfort by offering him warm, soothing liquids like tea with honey and lemon, broth or soup. Have him gargle with warm salt water to reduce the discomfort. Mix a saltwater gargle by adding 1 tsp of table salt to 8 oz of warm water. Make sure your child spits out his saltwater gargle, rather than swallowing the mixture. A cool-mist humidifier helps to moisten the air inside. Acetaminophen may offer some temporary relief.
Severe and recurrent cases of tonsillitis often require medical care. Your doctor may examine your child’s tonsils and perform a strep test to determine what type of germ is causing his symptoms. Your child may need to take a course of antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection. A tonsillectomy is the surgical procedure of removing the tonsils. Previously a common procedure, tonsillectomies are now reserved for serious or chronic cases of tonsillitis.