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What Can Cause Tonsillitis in Children?

Tonsils are lymph nodes in the back of the throat which on occasion can become inflamed and infected. Children are especially vulnerable and can suffer with a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. It is a common pediatric problem, but what can cause tonsillitis in children?

What Is the Purpose of Our Tonsils?

No one even knows they have tonsils. They mind their own business in the back of our throat until they begin to hurt and we have trouble swallowing. That’s when we pay attention. Ironically, our tonsils contain white blood cells which are there to guard against infections. They are supposed to protect the body from infection and trap bacteria and other germs that cause infection.

When they become infected, it is known as tonsillitis. This is a common childhood condition and typically affects children between age 5 and 15.

What Causes Tonsillitis?

The most common causes are a virus or a bacterial infection known as streptococcus pyogenes, or Strep A, called strep throat.

What Are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

The signs of tonsillitis are clear:

  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Bad breath
  • Stiff neck

You may even see a white or yellow coating or patches on the back of the throat on the tonsils.

What a Parent Should Do

If your child has the symptoms of an inflamed or infected tonsils, see a medical provider like our board-certified pediatricians in Orlando, FL as soon as possible. 

It is important to get a diagnosis and begin treatment. If the infection is caused by bacteria, a course of antibiotics is usually prescribed. With a virus, the infection should clear in a few days. If not treated promptly, complications like rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, inflammation of the kidneys, and a type of arthritis causing inflammation of the joints can occur.

You can help your child feel better by giving them cold or warm drinks like broth or soups, just not hot. If old enough, have them gargle with salt water and give them Benzocaine lozenges. 

In addition, give them over-the-counter ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but not aspirin. Letting them suck on popsicles or eat ice cream will soothe their sore throat too. 

Keep your child home from school for at least 24 hours to prevent the spread. Strep and tonsillitis are both contagious. 

Will They Need Their Tonsils Removed?

Removing tonsils was once a very common treatment, but is performed rarely these days. If your doctor recommends a tonsillectomy it is because your child is still having recurring bouts of strep throat. It is performed as an outpatient after a 20 minute procedure.

Contact our board-certified pediatricians at (407) 345-9929 if your child has symptoms of tonsillitis or strep throat in order to receive a timely diagnosis and needed treatment.


Tonsillitis – Symptoms & causes – Mayo Clinic

Pediatric Tonsillitis > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine

Pediatric Tonsillitis (