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Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis

What is pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

Pharyngitis and tonsillitis are infections in the throat. If the tonsils are primarily affected, it is called tonsillitis. If the throat is primarily affected, it is called pharyngitis. A child might even have inflammation and infection of both the tonsils and the throat. This is called pharyngotonsillitis.

These infections are spread by close contact with other individuals. Bacterial infections are more common during the winter. Viral infections are more common in summer and fall

Facts about pharyngitis and tonsillitis

What causes pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

There are many causes of infections in the throat. The following are the most common infectious agents:

What are the symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

The symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis depend greatly on the cause of the infection and the person affected.

The following are the most common symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

How are pharyngitis and tonsillitis diagnosed?

In most cases, it is hard to distinguish between a viral sore throat and a strep throat based on physical examination. It is important, though, to know if the sore throat is caused by GABHS, since this requires antibiotic treatment to help prevent the complications associated with this bacteria.

As a result, most children who have the above symptoms will receive a strep test and throat culture to determine if it is an infection caused by GABHS. This usually involves a throat swab (called a rapid strep test) in the physician's office.

If the rapid strep test is immediately positive for GABHS, antibiotics will be started. If it is negative, part of the throat swab will be kept for a throat culture. This will help determine, in two to three days, if there is any GABHS present. Your child's physician will decide the treatment plan based on the findings.

Treatment for pharyngitis and tonsillitis

The specific treatment for this condition depends on many factors and is tailored for each child. Please discuss your child's condition, treatment options and your preferences with your child's physician or healthcare provider.

If bacteria is not the cause of the infection, then the treatment is focused on comfort of your child. Antibiotics will not help treat viral sore throats. Treatment may include:

Reviewed by: Steven D. Handler, MD, MBE
Date: April 2009

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