Consider time off and Spring Break… Time off and health procedures often go hand and hand. Have you or your children had that pesky sore throat that comes around with the cold or flu season. It may actually be tonsillitis, and a throat lozenge just won’t cut it when it comes to relieving the pain. While tonsillitis usually occurs in children, adults can be affected as well. Dr. Kimi Dart of Brownwood ENT and Allergy wants to remind you that sometimes a surgical procedure is the only way to relieve that pain and is often necessary. Dr. Dart is Board Certified by American Osteopathic Board of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology.

Tonsils are part of the immune system, which helps the body fight disease and infection. Tonsillitis is the inflammation or infection of the tonsils, or the balls of tissue located on either side of the throat. It is contracted when small droplets, which carry the disease, are moved through the air as an infected person breaths, coughs or sneezes. Generally, tonsillitis will last from four to 10 days, depending on the type and severity of the infection.

There are two types of tonsillitis, both with their own symptoms and treatments. One type is a viral infection. A viral infection usually lasts about two weeks and will go away without any prescribed medications. Symptoms of tonsillitis caused by a viral infection are cold-like, including a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing or coughing.

Antibiotics are not effective when treating a viral case of tonsillitis but there are a few remedies to alleviate pain like gargling salt water, drinking warm tea or taking a non-prescription pain reliever.

Tonsillitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection like strep throat. Symptoms include a sore throat and a sudden fever without any other upper-respiratory problems. In both viral and bacterial cases tonsils may look red and swollen with spots or patches of pus. Warning signs of bacterial tonsillitis can include a dry mouth and tongue and ear pain. When these symptoms arise, individuals should visit a physician for diagnosis and proper medication since untreated cases can lead to serious complications.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial cases of tonsillitis, and it is important to finish the prescribed dosage, even if symptoms have disappeared. Bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics if they are not taken as directed.

In some instances, a physician may recommend a tonsillectomy. Dr. Dart will often perform adenoidectomy at the same time as a tonsillectomy. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and the tonsils are cut or burned away. The incisions heal naturally in about two weeks. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery criteria, a tonsillectomy should be considered if someone has frequent or chronic attacks including:

• Seven episodes in one year

• Five episodes per year for two years

• Three episodes per year for three years in a row

• Enlarged tonsils that interfere with breathing or general well-being or

• A boil or sore on the tonsils.

After a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, patients should avoid large crowds for up to seven days because the throat is prone to infection during this time. A humidifier, ice packs and soft food may help alleviate pain or discomfort. Once a person has recovered, the frequency of throat infections should decrease, but may not go away completely.

While tonsillitis will usually go away with time or some medication, there are a few simple tips to keep you from catching the disease, like avoiding close contact with someone who has been infected, washing your hands and regularly disinfecting surfaces such as door knobs and counter tops. If you or someone in your family is experiencing any of these symptoms, or has frequent throat infections, talk with your physician about possible treatment options.