Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Pharyngitis / Tonsillitis

Pharyngitis / Tonsillitis

Picture of a female physician examining a young girl

What is pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

Pharyngitis and tonsillitis are infections in the throat that cause inflammation. 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 would be called pharyngotonsillitis. These infections are spread by close contact with other individuals. The majority of pharyngitis cases occur during the winter or colder months.

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. For some children, the onset of symptoms may be quick; for others, symptom onset is slow. 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, as this requires antibiotic treatment to help prevent the complications associated with these bacteria.

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

This may immediately become positive for GABHS and antibiotics will be started. If it is negative, part of the throat swab will usually be kept for a throat culture. This will further identify, in two to three days, if there is any GABHS present. Your child's doctor will decide the treatment plan based on the findings.

What is the treatment for pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

Specific treatment for pharyngitis and tonsillitis will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

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

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