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Tonsillitis in Children


Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils. Tonsils are the lumps of tissue on both sides of the back of your child's throat. Tonsils are part of the immune system. They help fight infection. Recurrent tonsillitis is when your child has tonsillitis many times in 1 year. Chronic tonsillitis is when your child has a sore throat that lasts 3 months or longer.

Mouth Anatomy


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child suddenly has trouble breathing or swallowing, or he is drooling.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child is unable to eat or drink because of the pain.
  • Your child has voice changes, or it is hard to understand his speech.
  • Your child has increased swelling or pain in his jaw, or he has trouble opening his mouth.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • Your child has not urinated in 12 hours or is very weak or tired.
  • Your child has pauses in his breathing when he sleeps.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.
  • Your child has a rash on his body, red cheeks, and a red, swollen tongue.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • 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 your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. 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.
  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your child at home:

  • Help your child rest. Have him slowly start to do more each day. Return to his daily activities as directed.
  • Encourage your child to eat and drink. He may not want to eat or drink if his throat is sore. Offer ice cream, cold liquids, or popsicles. Help your child drink enough liquid to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid your child needs to drink each day and which liquids are best.
  • Have your child gargle with warm salt water. If your child is old enough to gargle, this may help decrease his throat pain. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Ask how often your child should do this.
  • Prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Do not let your child share food or drinks with anyone. Your child may return to school or daycare when he feels better and his fever is gone for at least 24 hours.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's 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.

Further information

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