Advice intended for parents/carers taking their child home after seeing a healthcare professional
Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. It is usually caused by a viral infection, or less commonly, a bacterial infection.
Tonsils are small glands that sit either side of the throat. They help to prevent infection spreading further into the body. Tonsillitis is common in children, teenagers and young adults.
These symptoms usually pass within 4-7 days.
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by a viral infection, if this is the case your child is likely to also have a runny nose, cough or earache. Bacterial tonsillitis can be caused by a number of different bacteria, but it is usually due to group A streptococcus bacteria (strep throat).
If your child has any of the following:
Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999
If none of the above features are present
Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, contact NHS 111 – dial 111 or for children aged 5 years and above visit 111.nhs.uk
Most children with tonsillitis do not need antibiotics. If your child has confirmed group A streptococcus or certain symptoms, then you may be prescribed 7 days of oral antibiotics.
You can help relieve symptoms by:
Treatment with intravenous antibiotics (given into a vein) is usually only needed for severe cases or those that have not responded to antibiotics given by mouth.
Some children who need intravenous antibiotics are admitted to hospital initially whilst others can be looked after at home. These children would come into hospital once a day for someone to look at them and for their antibiotics to be given.
The decision on when to change from intravenous to oral antibiotics (tablets or liquid) will be made by the medical team caring for your child. This will depend on how quickly your child responds to treatment (improvement in fever, pain and sometimes their blood tests) and whether your child has other health conditions.
Antibiotics are usually given for a total of 7 days. You can give regular pain relief (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) until any discomfort has improved.
Most children recover without any complications. However, possible complications from tonsillitis include:
If you are concerned that your child's condition is getting worse (see table above), your should contact your discharging ward.
Call 999 for an ambulance if you have serious concerns for your child.
It is not always easy to avoid catching these infections. However, good hygiene practices can prevent infections spreading.