Children in Albany are no strangers to tonsil infections. When these glands in the back of the throat, which help the immune system by defending against bacteria and viruses, become swollen and infected, pain and misery follow. There are tips you can try at home to help ease your child’s discomfort and speed up their recovery.
What is Tonsillitis?
The medical term for a tonsil infection is tonsillitis. The majority of cases occur due to viral infections, with bacterial infections responsible about 15-30 percent of the time. Kids are more likely to experience tonsillitis than adults; the tonsils play a predominant role in protecting the body from germs when we’re young, but shrink with age. By the late teens, tonsil infections are rare.
Most children in Albany will experience at least one instance of tonsillitis. Surgery was common in the past, but removal of the tonsils via a procedure called a tonsillectomy is usually reserved for only severe cases nowadays. Doctors instead take a wait-and-see approach in patients who are otherwise healthy, letting the infection run its course. Of course, we don’t want to see our children suffer. Your Albany ear, nose and throat doctor suggests the following home remedies if your child has tonsillitis.
- Drinking warm liquids. Soup, broth and tea will all help coat and soothe a sore throat. Ingredients such as honey or glycerin, found in many herbal teas, encourage the formation of a protective film over the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat that helps relieve irritation.
- Eating cold foods. Children in the past were promised ice cream as a reward for undergoing a tonsillectomy. There was logic behind this: cold, soft foods numb the throat, providing relief from pain. In addition to ice cream, frozen yogurt, Popsicle and smoothies will all help do the trick.
- Avoiding hard foods. Hard or sharp foods such as potato chips, crackers, cereal, toast, apples and carrots can scratch and irritate the throat, making swelling worse. Stick with soft foods instead; Jell-O, mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs are a few good choices.
- Gargling with saltwater. A saltwater gargle helps soothe throat pain. It’s easy to make; simply add a quarter teaspoon of salt to eight ounces of warm water, stir until it dissolves and gargle for a few seconds before spitting the water out.
- Using a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier or vaporizer will help relieve a dry, scratchy throat, reducing pain. Don’t own one? Turn on the shower, make sure the water is hot and close the bathroom door. Inhaling the warm steam will work just as effectively.
- Resting the voice. Speaking (or even whispering) when your throat is swollen puts strain on the vocal cords, increasing irritation. The best thing to do is give your voice a rest, speaking as little as possible.
- Getting plenty of rest. Rest allows your body to build up the strength to fight off infection. Staying in bed for a couple of days instead of going to school (where your child runs the risk of infecting others anyway) will help speed up recovery.
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen will help alleviate throat pain and discomfort. Don’t give children aspirin, which can cause Reye’s syndrome—a potentially fatal illness.
- Sucking on throat lozenges. Throat lozenges or cough drops often contain menthol and other anesthetic medications that will help numb and soothe the throat. Limit these to older children in order to reduce the risk of choking.
- Using throat sprays. Over-the-counter throat sprays that contain ingredients such as benzylamine, phenol, dibucaine, benzocaine, benzyl alcohol, cetylpyridinium chloride and chlorhexidine gluconate may give your child fits in the spelling bee but their anesthetic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties are great at relieving pain and inflammation.
These home remedies should help your child feel better and, with a little luck, their tonsillitis will clear up in a few days. If it persists longer than three or four days or is accompanied by severe pain, breathing or swallowing difficulty, weakness, fatigue or a fever that hasn’t broken after three days, make an appointment with an Albany ENT doctor.