Simply put, tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils; the two small glands located at the back of the throat. But when does a child go from having tonsillitis to having chronic tonsillitis? Gustavo A. Diaz-Reyes, MD, FACS, Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) at ARC Kyle Plum Creek says, "Tonsillitis is considered chronic when a child has multiple episodes over a period of at least six months."
What are the common symptoms of tonsillitis?
Symptoms of chronic tonsillitis in children can include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen tonsils
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Ear pain
"In some cases, chronic tonsillitis can lead to complications such as obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where a child's breathing is interrupted during sleep, or recurrent ear infections," adds Dr. Diaz-Reyes.
What are the treatments for chronic tonsillitis?
Treatment for chronic tonsillitis in children may include antibiotics to treat any bacterial infections, pain relief medication, or in some cases, a tonsillectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils. The decision to perform a tonsillectomy is usually based on the frequency and severity of a child's tonsillitis episodes and the impact they are having on the child's quality of life.
Is tonsillitis contagious?
Yes, tonsillitis can be contagious. "Tonsillitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, which can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes," says Dr. Diaz-Reyes. The infection can also spread through contact with objects or surfaces that an infected person has touched.
Dr. Diaz-Reyes adds, "Children are more susceptible to tonsillitis than adults, and the infection can spread easily in schools or daycare centers where children are in close contact with each other."
What are the risks of not getting tonsils removed?
In most cases, tonsillitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics or other forms of medical management, and a tonsillectomy is not necessary. However, in some cases, chronic or recurrent tonsillitis can lead to complications that may require a tonsillectomy.
Some potential risks of not getting tonsils removed when they are causing chronic or recurrent tonsillitis may include:
- Chronic sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Recurrent ear infections
- Abscess formation
"It's important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of tonsillectomy with your doctor," says Dr. Diaz-Reyes. "The decision to remove the tonsils should be based case-by-case on individual factors such as the frequency and severity of the tonsillitis episodes and the potential risks of complications."
Does removing the tonsils affect my child's immune system?
The tonsils play a role in the immune system by helping to filter out bacteria and other pathogens that enter the body through the mouth and throat. However, removing the tonsils does not typically have a significant impact on a child's overall immune function.
Make an appointment today
At ARC, our ENT doctors offer a wide range of ENT services specifically geared toward children. Conditions treated include sleep apnea, ear infections, sinus problems, snoring, head and neck tumors, hearing loss, speech delay, and voice disorders. ARC ENTs are located in multiple ARC Clinics around Central Texas.
To make an appointment visit the ENT Pediatric Care page, select the clinic most convenient to you, and call for an appointment.