KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A painful sore throat that lingers, making it tough to swallow or even breathe well could be tonsillitis.

It’s a common childhood illness that occurs when the infection-fighting tonsils in the back of our throat actually become infected themselves.

Dr. Shannon Cohen from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital shares some of the signs, symptoms and treatment for tonsillitis.


Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • Red, swollen or irritated tonsils (causes uncomfortable or painful swallowing)
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Fever
  • A “throaty” sounding voice


Treatment depends on whether it is caused by a virus or by bacteria like strep. If caused by an infection, the body will fight off the infection on its own. If caused by strep bacteria, an antibiotic is needed to treat it.

Will my child’s tonsils need to be removed? 

Not necessarily. Talk with your pediatrician, who may recommend surgery, if you child has any of the following conditions:

  • Tonsil or adenoid swelling that makes normal breathing difficult. This may or may not include sleep apnea.
  • Tonsils that are so swollen that your child has a problem swallowing.
  • Repeated ear or sinus infections despite treatment.
  • Excessive number of severe sore throats each year.
  • Lymph nodes beneath the lower jaw are swollen or tender for at least six months, even with antibiotic treatment.

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