Peritonsillar Abscess in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of tonsils and uvula

A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus that forms in tissues around the tonsils. It can occur as a result of strep throat or another infection. An abscess can cause severe pain and make it very hard to swallow.

Your child will need antibiotics. In some cases, the abscess will have been drained through a needle or small incision.

Your child may have had a sedative to help him or her relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

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.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Make sure your child gets lots of rest.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions if the abscess was drained through a needle or small incision.
  • While your child's throat is very sore, use liquid nourishment such as soup or high-protein drinks.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your child is very sleepy and you have trouble waking him or her.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child bleeds from the mouth.

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

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child's throat pain gets worse.
  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your child has new or worse trouble swallowing.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

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.
  • Your child has a hard time drinking fluids.

Where can you learn more?

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