Life Health & Wellbeing

Sunday 18 August 2019

Dear Dr Nina: Watching and waiting can be the right approach for tonsillitis

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Photo posed

Q My four-year-old has had tonsillitis five times in her life, and has had antibiotics each time. I asked about having her tonsils removed - I had mine removed for a similar reason - but she said it wasn't necessary. Why don't they take tonsils out any more?

Dr Nina replies: Most people assume that they have tonsillitis when they have a sore throat and attend the GP expecting to be prescribed an antibiotic. It can be very frustrating if a simple antibiotic doesn't solve the problem and quite worrying when it reoccurs.

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The majority of infective sore throats are viral and don't require antibiotic therapy. The most common cause of bacterial sore throat is streptococcus, and this is sometimes called "strep throat". This is usually quite obvious on physical examination.

If recurrent infectious sore throats occur, it is worth having blood tests and a throat swab taken. Glandular fever is a viral cause of recurrent sore throat that is most common in children and teenagers, but can occur at any age. If frequent infections occur, it is worth seeing an ear nose and throat specialist.

Surgery will usually be the last option. A watch-and-wait policy is sometimes advocated in younger children. They may improve with time. As children get older, school may be missed and it is less likely the tonsils will settle on their own.

It is likely your specialist is opting for a watch-and-wait approach to see if your daughter grows out of her tonsil issues.

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