Peritonsillar Abscess

You (or your child) has a collection of pus (abscess) around the tonsils. This abscess can cause severe sore throat, pain with swallowing, fever, drooling, and trouble opening the mouth.

The abscess is treated with antibiotics. These may be started using an IV (intravenous line), then continued by mouth. In most cases, the pus will also be drained.

Home care

  • Take all of the antibiotics as prescribed until they are gone. This is true even if symptoms start to get better. This is very important to ensure that the infection goes away. This infection can lead to serious complications.

  • Take pain medicines as directed. Don't take any over-the-counter medicine for this condition without talking with your healthcare provider, especially the first time.

  • To help ease pain, children older than 6 years and adults can gargle with warm saltwater 4 times a day for the first 2 days. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon (2.46 ml) of salt in 1 glass of hot water. Gargle with the solution then spit it out. (Check that children don't swallow the saltwater.)

  • Cool liquids and soft foods may make eating easier for the first few days.

  • Don’t smoke and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Follow-up care

Follow up with a healthcare provider or as advised within 1 to 2 days. 

When to seek medical advice

Call the healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher after 3 days of treatment

  • Symptoms that get worse

  • Symptoms that go away and come back

  • Trouble swallowing liquids or taking medicine

  • Neck stiffness

  • Bleeding a small amount from the throat

  • Rash

  • Swelling or bumps in the neck

Call 911

Call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • Trouble breathing, noisy breathing, or a muffled voice

  • Drooling

  • Trouble swallowing, choking, or other symptoms that may mean swelling in the throat is getting worse

  • Bleeding more than a small amount from the throat

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