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Does My Child Have Tonsillitis?

June 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 241

It is estimated that each year in the US over 500,000 children develop tonsillitis. The condition, called tonsillitis due to the swelling of the tonsils, is contagious much in the same way that a cold or flu is contagious. It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose by the lay person because it's symptoms often mimic those of several other conditions, including the common cold.

Tonsillitis most commonly occurs in children between the ages of approximately 5 to 15. Rarely are they found in children under the age of 2 or in adults over 40. Though not fatal itself, the condition can, however, lead to more serious complications - particularly if bacterial in nature. It is the bacterial infection, typically caused by group A Streptococcal bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes that, if left untreated, can lead to dehydration due to difficulty swallowing liquids, blocked airways due to enlarged tonsils, peritonsillar abscess, or even rheumatic fever.

A Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

Symptoms of tonsillitis commonly include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, bad breath (halitosis), perhaps a persistent, unproductive cough, and even ear pain. The ear pain is the result of irritated nerves that share a common pathway with those that run between the ears, nose, and throat. Your child may also have a fever.

A diagnosis of tonsillitis is usually made by a physician after an examination of the ears, nose, and throat. The throat, in particular, will be examined closely to rule out other common conditions. Hallmark findings for tonsillitis caused by a streptococcal bacteria include swollen tonsils with what appears as white, pus-filled spots, a fever, and a cough. If a bacterial infection is suspected, a throat culture may be performed to confirm the suspicion. Tonsillitis caused by viruses will usually resolve on their own in several days and therapies are largely aimed at reducing symptoms of discomfort.

Tonsil Stones

I am sometimes asked, "what are tonsil stones?" Tonsillitis is often accompanied by the development of tonsil stones in either or both the palatine or lingual tonsils, with the majority occurring in the palatine tonsils. An examination of the folds and crevices of the tonsils will typically reveal small calcified stones that are embedded within the tissue. The stones form as particles of food become trapped in the tissues and bacteria feed on them. By-products of bacterial growth and reproduction can form sulfurous compounds which lead to the bad breath often associated with tonsillitis.

It has been found that as many as 75% of adults with halitosis have tonsil stones. The stones are not always manifest in cases of tonsillitis, however. Tonsil stones are typically about one fourth the size of an average pill. They weigh about 300 micrograms in size but can grow to as large as 40 grams. They will usually begin to cause physical discomfort in the throat at around 1 gram in size.

Causes of Tonsillitis

Approximately 80% of all tonsillitis cases are caused by viruses - the same viruses that cause laryngitis, diarrhea, the flu, and the common cold. The other 20% are caused by bacteria, particularly Group A Hemolytic Streptococci. In rare cases, it can even be caused by parasites or fungi.

The condition is spread in the same manner as a cold - aerosolization of millions of tiny droplets of germs expelled by sneezing or by touching surfaces with contaminated hands. For this reason, proper hand washing and observance of cold and flu prevention practices is important.

What To Do

If your child has the following symptoms, you may want to contact a medical professional such as an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor for an examination:

  • Swelling, redness, or a whitish discharge in the back of the throat
  • Fever, chills, or ear ache
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • A sore throat that persists for more than 2 days
  • A persistent non-productive cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the neck

If a diagnosis of tonsillitis is made, the doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics and other palliative measures to reduce any discomfort. Bacterial infections typically subside two to three days after the initiation of antibiotic therapy. If an antibiotic regimen is prescribed, it is very important to adhere to the instructions precisely and finish the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Viral infections will be eradicated within a few days by the body's immune system.

Source: EzineArticles
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