Tonsillitis / pharyngitis


Most throat infections are caused by a common virus, but bacterial infections can also cause tonsillitis or pharyngitis. Treatment depends on the etiology, but it is important to obtain a quick and accurate diagnosis.



This condition most often affects preschoolers and adolescents but can also affect adults. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Red and inflamed tonsils
  • White or yellow spots on the tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Enlarged and painful lymph nodes in the neck
  • Hoarse voice

In young children who cannot describe what they are feeling, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Saliva dripping from the mouth (balls) due to difficulty/pain when swallowing
  • Refusal to eat
  • Unusual irritability


  • The diagnosis is determined by the professional following a clinical examination.
  • We can perform a throat culture to establish the presence of Group A Streptococcus.

Using a simple test, the professional will collect throat secretions with a sterile swab. The sample will be sent to the laboratory to test for strep bacteria. Usually, the result is ready in 24 to 48 hours. If the test is positive, you probably have a bacterial infection. If the test is negative, you are more likely to have a viral infection.


At home

If the nature of the infection is viral, here are some home care tips that can help you feel better and get better. If the virus is the cause of the infection, these tips are the only treatment, as we do not prescribe antibiotics.

  • Rest. You should get enough sleep.
  • Drink enough water to avoid dehydration.
  • Drinking hot liquids – soup, caffeine-free tea, or warm lemon water – and cold snacks like ice cream help relieve sore throats.
  • Prepare a saltwater gargle. A cup of warm water (250 ml of water) in which you put 1 teaspoon of salt can relieve a sore throat. Gargle, then spit it out.

  • Use a humidifier. It is useful (in winter) for dry rooms that irritate the throat even more.
  • Avoid irritants cleaning products and don’t smoke in the house.
  • Treat pain and fever. Ask us for advice on using ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Moderate fever without pain does not require treatment. Except for certain illnesses, children and adolescents do not need to take aspirin, which is associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition.


If the throat condition is caused by a bacterial infection, group A streptococcus, we may prescribe antibiotics. You must take the full course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms improve. If you don’t take the full course of antibiotics, the infection may get worse or spread to other parts of the body. Also, incomplete antibiotic treatment may increase the risk of rheumatic fever or severe kidney inflammation.


Surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) can be used to treat frequent recurrent tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis, or bacterial tonsillitis that does not respond to antibiotic treatment. Frequent tonsillitis is defined as:

  • More than 7 episodes per year
  • More than 4-5 episodes per year over the past two years
  • More than 3 episodes per year over the past three years

Tonsillectomy may also be recommended if tonsillitis has led to complications that are difficult to manage, such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing, especially meat or other large foods
  • Abscesses that do not improve with antibiotic treatment

Full recovery from tonsillectomy usually takes 7 to 14 days.


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