Sore throats are a fact of life, especially in young children. Sore throats can either be acute and short-lived or they can turn into chronic tonsillitis. The medical profession defines the two types of tonsillitis by these standards:
Acute Tonsillitis: This is a bacterial or viral infection in the tonsils and it usually heals up with treatment and there are no further issues.
Chronic Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis becomes chronic when episodes of acute tonsillitis reoccur repeatedly.
Recurrent tonsillitis can have young children and teens see the doctor often. Many children require surgery to remove the tonsils. Read on to learn more about chronic tonsillitis.
Symptoms of Chronic Tonsillitis
Symptoms of acute tonsillitis include: throat pain, throat swelling, white or yellow discharge, blisters or ulcers, headache, loss of voice, reduced appetite, pain in the ears, troubleswallowing, fever, swollen glands, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and bad breath. The infection becomes chronic when the symptoms do not go away with time, rest and treatment.
Chronic tonsillitis often does not make you as sick as acute tonsillitis. Therefore doctors may overlook these cases. Chronic tonsillitis may start out with an acute case and then linger on with symptoms quite unlike the initial infection including:
- White stones in the “pits” of the tonsils that can be pulled out
- Trouble swallowing
- Tingling in the throat
- Feeling like there is something stuck in the throat
- Throat pain
Complications of Chronic Tonsillitis
If tonsillitis continues over long periods of time the inflammation in the throat can cause patients to have trouble breathing. This can lead to trouble breathing at night during sleep, otherwise known as, sleep apnea. If the original infection is not completely healed it can spread deep into the tissues and cause cellulitis. This can also lead to fluid build-up behind the tonsils causing an abscess. Untreated Strep infections can be serious and lead to rheumatic fever that can infect the heart, other organs and joints. Strep can also cause glomerulonephritis that weakens the kidneys ability to remove waste from the body.
Causes of Chronic Tonsillitis
The causes of chronic tonsillitis usually begin with the same organisms that cause acute tonsillitis. The most common offender is Strep (streptococcus) a bacterial infection. There are also several viruses such as:
• Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis)
• Herpes Simplex (virus)
• Parainfluenza (virus)
• Influenza (virus)
The viral causes need to clear up on their own with rest and fluids and the bacterial causes require antibiotic treatment.
Contributing Factors of Chronic Tonsillitis
Acute tonsillitis is usually just exposure to the germ by being around someone who is sick. In Chronic tonsillitis, there are certain factors that can contribute to frequent cases of tonsillitis. Here are a few things that raise the risk of chronic tonsillitis:
This refers to environmental allergies that cause drainage down the back of the throat or a food allergy. Some of the foods that cause tonsillitis are bananas, citrus, milk products, and preservatives used in foods.
When the weather gets cold, people are indoors more and closer together. This can spread the germs that cause tonsillitis. Changes in weather or damp areas can breed bacteria and viruses. Cold weather can also stress the immune system and lower the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Some studies have shown there may be a slight genetic link to chronic tonsillitis. It has been shown to run in families possibly due to tonsil structure and predisposition to post-nasal drip and/or allergies.
Lack of tooth brushing and gargling to clear the mouth and tonsils of bacteria could lead to infections.
Smoking causes inflammation to the delicate tissues on the back of the throat. It can also weaken the immune system and keep your body from absorbing necessary vitamins and minerals that help you fight off infection.
The bacteria and viruses that cause chronic sinusitis can linger in the tonsils and cause them to become infected. Treat infections in the sinuses promptly to avoid them spreading to the throat area.
Treatments for Chronic Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is treated according to whether it is bacterial or viral. If you or your child have a sore throat, the doctor can take a swab of the throat. Many doctors have a “rapid strep” that give results in just a few minutes. If that is negative, the swab is sent off for a culture that takes about three days. In some cases, a negative throat culture may still be treated with antibiotics just in case. Once the results come in here is how both are treated:
Bacterial – If the strep test is positive or the doctor has enough reason to believe your infection is bacterial, you will be given a prescription for antibiotics. Symptoms may go away quickly, but you need to take the entire prescription to completely clear the bacteria.
Virus – If the strep test is negative and the doctor believes the cause is viral, antibiotics will not help. Viral infections usually go away on their own with time, rest and taking good care ofyourself.
Home treatments that can help speed up the process include:
- Over-the-counter pain and fever medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Plenty of rest and staying home from work or school
- For adults, sore throat lozenges. For small children, they have sore throat pops. (Throat lozenges can be a choking hazard for children)
- A warm salt water gargle
- Increased Fluids
- Soft foods
- Use a vaporizer to humidify the air
The following is a video about natural Ayurvedic home remedies for tonsillitis:
When to Have Tonsillectomy
Believe it or not, your tonsils have an important job! They are a vital part of your immune system. There are a lot of doctors that do not remove tonsils under any circumstance, but if the tonsils become so enlarged that they obstruct breathing then tonsillectomy may be necessary. They may also suggest removal if chronic tonsillitis is severe.
The surgery is known as a tonsillectomy. The surgeon will remove the tonsils with either a regular scalpel or use a laser to burn off the tonsils. It is usually an in-and-out procedure with minimal recovery time. There are complications and you should discuss this with your doctor.