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Peritonsillar Abscess


A peritonsillar abscess

or PTA, is a collection of pus in the peritonsillar space. The peritonsillar space is the area between your tonsil and the back wall of your throat. It is near the opening of the tubes leading to your stomach and lungs.

Common symptoms and symptoms include the following:

  • Sore throat, often severe
  • Drooling or bad breath
  • Voice change
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Red and swollen tonsil or throat
  • Ear pain
  • Pain or difficulty when you open or close your mouth, swallow, and move your neck

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have more pain, swelling, or redness in your throat.
  • Your symptoms get worse or do not get better, even with treatment.
  • You have difficulty or pain when you swallow, or you cannot eat or drink.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your abscess returns.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a peritonsillar abscess

may depend on how severe it is. Surgery or an incision and drainage may be needed if other treatments do not work.


  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Steroids decrease swelling.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Decrease your risk for a peritonsillar abscess:

  • Care for your mouth and teeth. Brush and floss your teeth after you eat, and before you go to sleep. Gently brush your teeth and gums using a brush with soft bristles. Use a mouth rinse after you brush. See your dentist for regular check-ups.
  • Do not delay treatment for a sore throat. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have a sore throat that continues for more than a few days. If you have a fever with a sore throat, call your doctor that day. Early treatment may prevent a peritonsillar abscess. Take your antibiotic for throat infections until it is done.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars may increase your risk for a peritonsillar abscess. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Manage your symptoms:

  • A liquid diet may decrease your discomfort until the PTA is healed. A liquid diet may include jello, juices, or ice pops.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Peritonsillar Abscess (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.