most often caused by a virus, which resolves on its own. But tonsillitis can be
caused by strep bacteria, which requires treatment with antibiotics. Watch for
signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth and tongue.
Also, watch for signs of
complications, such as ear pain, from tonsillitis
caused by strep bacteria.
Tonsillitis caused by a virus
by a virus will usually go away on its own. Antibiotics are not effective
treatment for viral tonsillitis.
The virus that causes
mononucleosis (mono) can lead to tonsillitis that is
as severe as tonsillitis caused by bacteria and can take several weeks or more
before it goes away.
Home treatments such as gargling with salt
water, drinking warm tea, and taking over-the-counter pain medicine (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) may help relieve discomfort. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of its link to
Many nonprescription remedies such as antiseptic mouthwashes,
antihistamines contain extra ingredients that don't
relieve discomfort. These remedies are not recommended for children, because
they have not been proved to have any benefits in the treatment of acute
Tonsillitis caused by bacteria
prescribed for tonsillitis caused by strep bacteria. A strep infection
will usually go away on its own, but antibiotic treatment is needed because
strep throat can cause serious
complications. For more information, see the topic
If antibiotics are
prescribed, be sure you take them exactly as directed by your
doctor. Antibiotics should be taken for the entire duration of the
prescription, even if the symptoms disappear completely before the prescription
is gone. If antibiotics used to treat tonsillitis are not taken as directed,
bacteria can become resistant to them (antibiotic resistance). In these cases, antibiotic treatment of future infections
may not work.
Surgical removal of the tonsils
(tonsillectomy) is still a common procedure, particularly for children. But it is
not performed nearly as often as it was in the past. Tonsillectomy may be
considered to treat tonsillitis when a child has serious complications,
recurrent infections, or chronic infections that do not respond to treatment
and interfere with daily functioning. But the risks and benefits of surgery
need to be weighed carefully. Tonsillectomy should only be done after you
and your doctor carefully consider your or your child's overall health. For
more information, see:
- Tonsillitis: Should My Child Have a Tonsillectomy?