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Tonsillitis is usually caused by a virus and does not require prescription medicine. Gargling with salt water and taking over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help manage symptoms as the body fights off the infection. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a serious but rare problem.
What to think about
Cough and cold medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use these medicines, check the label. Many over-the-counter remedies, including antiseptic mouthwashes, decongestants, and antihistamines, contain extra ingredients that don't relieve discomfort. These remedies are not recommended for children, as these ingredients have not been proved to have any benefits in the treatment of acute tonsillitis.1
If antibiotics are prescribed, be sure you take them exactly as directed by your doctor until the medicine is gone. Even if the symptoms go away completely before the prescription is gone, all pills should be taken as directed to make sure the infection is completely destroyed. Bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat tonsillitis (antibiotic resistance) if prescriptions aren't taken as directed or if they are prescribed when they aren't needed.
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