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Tonsillitis - When To Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if any of the following occur.

  • Sore throat, along with any two of these signs of bacterial infection:
    • Fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or higher
    • White or yellow coating on the tonsils
    • Swollen, tender tonsils
    • Swollen lymph nodes camera.gif in the neck
    • Rash
    • Abdominal (belly) pain and headache
    • Severe pain
    • Severe difficulty swallowing
    • Pain on only one side of the throat
  • Tonsillitis or sore throat that starts after being exposed to someone who has strep throat.
  • 7 episodes of tonsillitis in 1 year despite treatment.
  • Persistent mouth-breathing, snoring, or a very nasal- or muffled-sounding voice.
  • Signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth and tongue and urinating less than normal.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your or your child's symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting is appropriate if tonsillitis occurs along with cold symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and coughing. Tonsillitis with these symptoms is most often caused by a virus. Viral infection of the tonsils can be treated at home and in most cases goes away without treatment within 2 weeks. In general, the more like a cold the condition is, the less likely it is that the condition is caused by strep bacteria.

Watchful waiting is not appropriate if tonsillitis occurs with a fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or higher or with swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and without symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. If these symptoms occur together, see a doctor. You may have strep throat, which should be treated promptly.

Who to see

Health professionals who can evaluate tonsillitis, perform quick tests or throat cultures, and prescribe antibiotic treatment, if needed, include:

If surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) is indicated, your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat, or ENT, doctor).

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 30, 2013
    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.
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    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.

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