Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis

  • Local approach to strep throat
    Andrew Fine and Kenneth Mandl of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP) and  Department of Emergency Medicine found that using a more local approach to examining strep throat populations  could help diagnose 62,000 cases per year in the United States, which may otherwise go unnoticed. Learn more about the potential benefits of a local approach to studying and controlling strep throat in the Children’s newsroom.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-6460
  • 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. There are several common symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis, but each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

    • sore throat
    • fever (either low grade or high)
    • headache
    • decrease in appetite
    • not feeling well
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • stomach aches
    • painful swallowing
    • visual redness or drainage in the throat

    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 a physical examination. It is very important to know if the sore throat is "strep" (caused by GABHS), because it will require 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 throat culture to determine if the infection is caused by GABHS. This usually involves a throat swab (called quick tests or rapid strep tests) in the physician's office.

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

  • How will my child be treated for pharyngitis or tonsillitis?

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

    • acetaminophen (for pain)
    • increased fluid intake
    • throat lozenges
    • antibiotics (if the cause of the infection is bacterial, not viral)
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