Tonsillitis in children: just a matter of swollen tonsils?

Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils associated with swelling of viral or bacterial origin. Let’s find out what it is together!

With the cold and bad weather also come the “usual” seasonal ailments. Unfortunately, every parent knows them well, because it is in winter that children tend to get sick more frequently.

One of the most frequent ailments in children is tonsillitis. Its most numerous patients are precisely those with an age between 3 and 8 years.

And, while it may seem strange, this is a good sign: it means that the baby’s immune system is working to defend the body.

The tonsils, in fact, produce antibodies useful to fight viruses and bacteria that invade the organism by entering through the respiratory system.

So let’s see how to recognize tonsillitis and how to help our little ones get better as soon as possible.

Did you know that the greatest incidence of tonsillitis occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 8?

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils. It affects many children and can occur several times during the year.

The palatine tonsils, this is the full name of the most important ones, are a lymphatic tissue and, together with the adenoids, constitute one of the barriers against the agents that cause respiratory infections, in particular viruses.

However, they are also the site of acute or chronic infections.

Acute tonsillitis often manifests itself as an enlargement of the tonsils, which return to their usual size once the inflammation has gone away.

If the child is subject to frequent tonsillitis, which follow one another without completely resolving, the hypertrophy of the tonsils struggles to regress.

When this happens, we speak of chronic tonsillitis. This problem can also present itself in a chronic form since its inception.

In these cases, the symptoms appear milder but persist over time and are associated with constant low-grade fever and a sense of fatigue.

When chronic tonsillitis does not respond to drugs or causes breathing difficulties, tonsillectomy is used, which is the surgical removal of the tonsils.

“The tonsils represent one of the first lines of defence of the respiratory system.”

Tonsillitis: how to recognize it in children

But how do we know that the child has tonsillitis? In most cases, the initial symptoms are similar to other seasonal diseases.

Certainly, the number one clue to suspect tonsillitis is a sore throat, which occurs when the baby swallows something. Often then the inflammation of the tonsils is accompanied by fever and the lymph nodes in the neck are swollen.

By visually inspecting the child’s throat, the enlarged tonsils are clearly visible and are normally the size of 2 almonds.

In addition to these signs, bad breath and the presence of plaques in the throat can also occur.

Tonsillitis, as we have mentioned, is more common in the cold months and often spreads like wildfire among children. Kindergartens and schools are the privileged place where the little ones are transmitted these viral infections.

Sneezing, coughing, saliva are the vehicles with which tonsillitis can become almost pandemic.

“Does your little one complains of a sore throat and is his breath bad enough? It could be tonsillitis! “


Viral or bacterial tonsillitis?

In most cases, tonsillitis is due to a viral infection, which resolves in a few days without leaving any aftermath.

In these cases, anti-inflammatories and, if necessary, antipyretics are used to reduce painful symptoms and fever when present, waiting for the situation to improve spontaneously.

In the case of viral tonsillitis, in fact, these symptoms occur quite quickly and therefore, starting from the second day, the initial discomfort gives way to the classic cold with cough and mucus.


But it’s not always easy to distinguish between bacterial and viral tonsillitis. Generally, tonsillitis caused by bacteria shouldn’t cause too much concern, however those caused by streptococcal bacteria can also lead to complications.

How to recognize it then? Often, the fever exceeds 39°C and the tonsils become covered with pus.

It is important to understand the origin of the disease because, in the case of bacterial infection, it may be necessary to resort to antibiotics to avoid complications.

When to see a doctor in case of tonsillitis

Even if you know the symptoms of tonsillitis and, as we have seen, in most cases those of viral origin resolve spontaneously, it may be necessary to consult your paediatrician.

First, it is essential to distinguish between an inflammation of the tonsils due to a virus rather than a bacterium, but if you are not a doctor, it is difficult: with inflamed tonsils, “doing it yourself” does not apply.

A consultation with the paediatrician therefore becomes very important for a sudden diagnosis, which allows you to select the most suitable treatment for your child.

The paediatrician may consider it useful, for example, to carry out a throat swab to identify streptococcal tonsillitis.

How does it work? A secretion present on the tonsils is collected and examined under a microscope.

In general, to avoid resorting to antibiotics when not indicated, a situation that causes the development of resistance, it is good to contact your paediatrician, who, once the cause has been identified, will be able to prescribe the most effective and appropriate therapy for the problem.

In any case, if your little one is suffering from a sore throat, has inflamed tonsils and the situation does not improve within a few days, it is best to call his paediatrician for a check-up.

The doctor should also be consulted immediately in case of difficulty in breathing or swallowing, when the fever is very high, and the pain extends to the ears or there is a headache associated with vomiting.

It can happen that tonsillitis, if not properly treated, becomes complicated with other problems such as sinusitis, otitis, pus formation and inflammation of the mastoid, a bone in the skull.

Therefore, it is important to act promptly when needed, without getting caught up in unnecessary anxieties.

We have seen that sore throat, low-grade fever and fatigue associated with enlarged tonsils are typical symptoms of tonsillitis, a problem that mainly affects children.

Tonsillitis can pass on its own within two or three days if it is of viral origin but, with children, it is always good to contact the paediatrician immediately for a correct diagnosis and, when necessary, suitable therapy, especially if a bacterial infection.

Ultimately, before getting anxious or “do it yourself” it is good to ask your little one’s paediatrician for a consultation to better manage his tonsillitis!

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