Most of us know the tonsils are somewhere in our throat. Many think the tonsils consist of that punching bag thing hanging down in the center of the back of our mouth. They may question the use of a plural, but they move on. Others have no idea where any of this stuff is; they only know a sore throat can be due to tonsillitis.
That last part is right. The other parts…no.
First things first. That punching bag seen in so many Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid is called the uvula. The tonsils can be found on sides of the back of the mouth, just a little bit further back than the uvula.
When those two fleshy pads become inflamed and irritated, you have tonsillitis.
Dr. Volpi treats tonsillitis at our Central Park West and Park Avenue locations of New York ENT.
What do the tonsils do?
The tonsils are part of the body’s immune system. Because of their location at the throat and palate, they can stop germs entering the body through the mouth or the nose. The tonsils also contain lots of white blood cells, which are responsible for killing germs.
What is tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include swollen tonsils, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck. Many cases of tonsillitis can be caused by infection with a common virus, such as the common cold. But bacterial infections may also lead to tonsillitis.
Because of their front-line status against invaders entering through the mouth, the tonsils are particularly vulnerable to infection and inflammation. This is especially true when we are children and teens. The immune system function of the tonsils declines after we go through puberty, and this explains why tonsillitis is rare for adults.
Since the kids are all back in school this fall after last year’s COVID craziness, the incidence of tonsillitis is sure to rise. Kids are great at passing viruses back and forth. If your child’s tonsillitis is caused by a virus, Dr. Volpi will not prescribe antibiotics, as the virus simply needs to run its course. This usually takes 7-10 days. He’ll provide parents with all the at-home treatment approaches they should take.
Surgery used to be common for tonsillitis, but today Dr. Volpi only considers it if the patient has chronic or recurring viral tonsillitis or bacterial tonsillitis that doesn’t respond to antibiotics. Frequent tonsillitis is generally defined as:
- At least seven episodes in the preceding year
- At least five episodes a year in the past two years
- At least three episodes a year in the past three years
If your child has the signs of tonsillitis, give Dr. Volpi a call at New York ENT, 212-873-6036.