Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size

Tonsillitis - Treatment Overview

Tonsillitis is 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

Tonsillitis caused 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 Reye syndrome, a serious but rare problem.

Many nonprescription remedies such as antiseptic mouthwashes, decongestants, and 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.1

Tonsillitis caused by bacteria

Antibiotics are prescribed for tonsillitis caused by strep bacteria. A strep infection will usually go away on its own, but antibiotic treatment is needed because untreated strep throat can cause serious complications. For more information, see the topic Strep Throat.

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.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) is still a common procedure, particularly for children. But it is not done 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.

Tonsillitis: Should My Child Have a Tonsillectomy?
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

close up of woman sticking out tongue
Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
toothbrushes
10 secrets to a brighter smile.
 
Veneer smile
Before and after.
Woman checking her bite in mirror
Why dental care is important.
 

Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
Slideshow
woman with jaw pain
Quiz
 
eroded front teeth
Slideshow
brushing teeth
Video
 

Variety shades of tea
Slideshow
mouth and dental instruments
Article
 
Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
Tool
womans smile
Video