KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A painful sore throat that lingers, making it tough to swallow or even breathe well could be tonsillitis. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says it’s a common childhood illness, but removing the tonsils is not always necessary.

The tonsils are oval-shaped, pink masses of tissue on both sides of the throat they catch germs before they can cause infection in other parts of the body. However, sometimes bacteria or viruses get into the tonsils and they become infected causing tonsillitis.


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

The best treatment for tonsillitis 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 a child’s tonsils need to be removed?

  • 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