Recurrent tonsillitis (infection of the tonsils) is painful and can result in several days of school missed. Multiple courses of antibiotics may be required to treat recurrent infections.


Tonsillitis is causes by viruses or bacteria. Antibiotics are used to treat suspected bacterial tonsillitis.


Severe throat pain, difficulty swallowing foods and liquids, referred ear pain and high fevers are common symptoms and signs of tonsillitis. Pus may be evident on the tonsils as white or yellow spots. Children generally look and feel very unwell with tonsillitis and may be lethargic and have no appetite. Parents may notice that their children have bad breath and may start snoring if their tonsils enlarge significantly.

Some children (usually teenagers) may develop an abscess just next to the tonsil – this is called a quinsy. This may result in the two tonsils appearing a different size or shape, as well as difficulty for the child to widely open his / her mouth.


Tonsillitis is a clinical diagnosis made by looking at the tonsils. Throat swabs have not been shown to be particularly beneficial in diagnosing and managing tonsillitis.

Parents should keep a record of the number of episodes of tonsillitis their child has per year, as this will influence treatment recommendations.


All children should increase their fluid intake and receive analgesia (Panadol and/or Nurofen). Antibiotics will usually be needed for bacterial infections to resolve.

Children who have had recurrent tonsillitis may benefit from a tonsillectomy. Apart from preventing further episodes of tonsillitis, tonsillectomy can have benefits in reducing antibiotic usage and time away from school.

There are internationally recognised guidelines that Dr Levin follows when recommending a tonsillectomy for children with tonsillitis. If you are concerned that your child suffers from recurrent tonsillitis, make an appointment to discuss this with Dr Levin.

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