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Tonsillitis - when your throat is often sore

sore; throat; infection; glands; virus; bacteria; antibiotics; swelling; operation; tonsils; tonsil; tonsillectomy;


What are tonsils?

  • normal tonsilsStand in front of a mirror.
  • Open your mouth wide and take a look down your throat.
  • Can you see two little lumps either side of your uvula? (That's the dangly bit in the back of your throat.)
  • Well those lumps are your tonsils. They do a very important job in your body's battle against germs.
  • They catch some of the germs (bacteria and viruses) that come into your mouth before they get into the rest of your body. Antibodies and white blood cells in the tonsils then set to work to get rid of those germs so that you don't get sick.
  • Kids usually have bigger tonsils than adults (you might like to have a look and see how big your nearest adult's tonsils are).

What is tonsillitis?

  • tonsilsSometimes there are so many germs around that your tonsils get really swollen trying to kill them all. If you are unlucky then your tonsils get infected.
  • You can tell if they are because they look swollen, really red and they may have white or yellow spots on them.
  • You will feel sore in your throat and the glands in your neck could be swollen and sore.
  • You may feel like you have a cold and could have a runny nose and sore eyes.
  • If your tonsils are infected, you may have a temperature and feel really yukky.
    swollen tonsils

What you can do

  • You may need to see the doctor to find out if you need any special treatment for your tonsillitis.
  • You will need to rest, and stay home until your body fights off the germs.
  • Drinking lots of water will cool your throat.
  • Mum, dad or caregiver may give you some paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain.
  • This is a good excuse to eat jelly and ice cream if you don't feel like eating other things, and they don't harm your throat either!
  • Staying home means that you won't pass on the germs to other kids; and anyway do you want to be in school trying to work when you are feeling sick?
  • If your doctor thinks bacteria are making you sick then you might be given some antibiotics (say anti-buy-o-tiks).
    • When you take antibiotics you need to make sure that you take them in the way your doctor told you.
    • You also need to take them every day until they're all gone. If you are not feeling better when you have finished the medication then you need to see the doctor again.

What some kids say

  • tonsils"I had tonsillitis a lot when I was little but I haven't had it for a long time now." Maya
  • "I always used to have sore throats and had to take a lot of antibiotics. The doctor said I had to have my tonsils out. I was a bit scared but it was okay and my mum stayed with me in the hospital."
  • "Mum made me go to school when I had a sore throat. I threw up and felt very embarrassed." Tim
  • "I'm really careful to wash my hands before I put food in my mouth. Everything has germs on it and I don't want to eat germs." Katya

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate"Not every person with a sore throat will need antibiotics.  Your body's immune system can get rid of almost all infections, even the ones that are caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can kill some bacteria, but not viruses, and mostly tonsillitis is caused by viruses. Sometimes the soreness is caused by tonsillitis, but other times soreness is in the back of the throat, away from the tonsils. It could be that your adenoids are sore"

If you have a sore throat which is getting worse, ask mum or dad whether you need to go to your doctor.

Some people get a lot of tonsillitis. If you are one of them your doctor may tell you that it is a good idea for you to have your tonsils out. It would mean that you would need to have an operation to take them out of your throat. This operation is called a 'tonsillectomy'.

If you are worried about the thought of having surgery have a look at our topic on Going into hospital.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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