Tonsillitis in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Normal tonsils and tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that is caused by bacteria or a virus. The tonsils are in the back of the throat and are part of the immune system. Tonsillitis typically lasts from a few days up to a couple of weeks.

Tonsillitis caused by a virus usually goes away on its own. Tonsillitis caused by the bacteria that causes strep throat is treated with antibiotics. You and your child's doctor may consider surgery to remove the tonsils if your child has complications from tonsillitis or repeat infections. This surgery is called tonsillectomy.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If your child is age 8 or older, have him or her gargle with warm salt water. This helps reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. Have your child gargle once an hour with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may help soothe an irritated throat. Your child can drink warm or cool liquids (whichever feels better). These include tea, soup, and juice.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's pain gets worse on one side of the throat.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • You notice changes in your child's voice.
  • Your child has trouble opening his or her mouth.
  • Your child has any trouble breathing.
  • Your child has much more trouble swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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