Medications for Tonsillitis & Adenoiditis

Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone may prescribe one or more medications to eliminate a bacterial infection and shrink any resulting swelling in the tonsils—two small glands on either side of the back of the throat—or of the adenoid tissue, which is a single patch of tissue behind the nose. Enlarged tonsils and adenoid tissue are referred to, respectively, as tonsillitis and adenoiditis. These conditions can be caused by infection or allergy.

Our doctors usually recommend medication for the initial treatment of tonsillitis or adenoiditis, especially if your child has not had an excessive number of infections in the past year or does not have a known breathing problem, such as sleep apnea.

If your child has tonsillitis because of a bacterial infection, such as group A Streptococcus, which causes strep throat, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. These medications come in pill or liquid form and are taken by mouth for 10 to 14 days. The liquid form is easier for young children to swallow.

Viral infections that cause enlarged tonsils go away on their own without medication. Until then, your doctor may suggest that your child drink plenty of fluids, rinse the throat with warm water, and take over-the-counter pain relievers.

If allergies have caused adenoiditis—inflamed or infected adenoid tissue—your child’s doctor may recommend nasal steroids and saline spray for a few weeks to reduce inflammation in the nose and adenoid tissue. The doctor may also suggest using nonprescription allergy medications to prevent your child’s adenoid tissue from becoming inflamed when exposed to allergens, such as pollen.

After about six weeks, the doctor reevaluates your child’s symptoms to see whether these medications are helping. If not, your child’s doctor may recommend surgery to remove the enlarged adenoid tissue or tonsils or both.

Resources for Tonsillitis & Adenoiditis in Children
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