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Tonsillitis in a Toddler

By Amber Kelsey ; Updated June 13, 2017

Tonsillitis is an ailment that occurs when your tonsils become inflamed. Tonsils are oval-shaped lymph nodes located on either side of the back of your throat. Tonsils help filter out any germs attempting to enter your body through your mouth. Tonsillitis primarily infects kids between their toddler and teenage years.


The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, explains that the primary symptom of tonsillitis is swollen, red tonsils covered with a yellow or white coating. Other signs of a tonsillitis infection include headaches, a sore throat, ear pain, fever and neck stiffness. Because toddlers typically have a hard time telling you how they feel, watch your child for a loss of appetite, fatigue, drooling and uncharacteristic fussiness or fatigue. Young children might also have bad breath and scratchy voices.


According to, tonsillitis infections are mainly caused by common cold viruses and several types of bacteria, primarily Streptococcus pyogenes. Your toddler's tonsils sometimes become overworked while protecting his body from germs and bacteria. Overwhelmed tonsils often become inflamed.


The doctor will peer into your toddler's mouth to check the tonsils for inflammation and coatings. Pediatricians usually feel the lymph nodes in your child's neck to check for swelling. The Kids Health website explains that the doctor will probably swab the back of your child's throat and examine the culture for the presence of bacteria.


The fever and pain associated with tonsillitis can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Never give your child aspirin, because it has been associated with a condition called Reye syndrome. Kids Health explains that if the tonsillitis infection is caused by a cold, then you will just have to allow the virus to run its natural course. The UMMC reports that doctors generally prescribe antibiotics for tonsillitis infections caused by bacteria. Toddlers who suffer from repeated tonsillitis infections sometimes require the tonsils to be surgically removed during a tonsillectomy.


Make sure your toddler gets extra rest and drinks plenty of fluids while recovering from a tonsillitis infection. Many children find it soothing to suck on a frozen treat, such as an ice pop or ice cream. Using a cool-air humidifier might help to moisten the air and soothe your toddler’s sore throat. Because tonsillitis infections are contagious, wash your hands frequently when dealing with your sick toddler.

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