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by Katie Hodgkins

Those Terrible Tonsils!

Tonsils… Aren’t they a bugger?!

As part of our children’s immune system, tonsils are instrumental in keeping bugs at bay, but sadly for some children, they can easily become inflamed and infected. Ouch! Some children are particularly prone to tonsillitis… my poor little boy Max seems to be one of them.

An unfortunate recipient of mine and my dad’s nasty tonsil genes, Max has had tonsillitis quite a few times in his three short years of life, although not enough for the NHS criteria to have them removed, frustratingly. This most recent bout landed him in hospital and has prompted us to look into going private to have them removed – my tonsillectomy as a child was the best thing my parents ever did for me, and after 2 weeks of being sore I’ve never had to suffer with nasty, infected tonsils.

(I will admit that I have still actually had tonsillitis a few times since the surgery as they rarely manage to remove every single part of the tissue, but it was way milder and didn’t incapacitate me. Still a win in my eyes!)

Anyway, I digress. This latest sickness started around a week ago, when we noticed that Max was quieter and sleepier than usual but without any clear symptoms of being unwell so we decided to watch and wait. However, by Saturday, his temperature suddenly spiked, his cheeks started to flush bright red. He was pale, sleepy and very upset, and because he is speech delayed due to potential autism, he couldn’t tell us what was wrong, all he could do was point at his mouth and cry ‘hurt’, and ‘help me’. The poor wee lad! He was also mouth breathing and snoring a lot, a sure sign that his tonsils were playing up.

We ended up at Out Of Hours on the Sunday evening which was mercifully incredibly quiet and we were seen straight away… and Max was at this stage diagnosed with a flu-like virus. It was a case of keeping him dosed up on calpol and fluids, basically! I wasn’t 100% in agreement as his tongue was starting to look sore in the same way that a child’s tongue is when they have scarlet fever, but we decided to go with what we were told and give Max lots of cuddles at home.

Within 12 hours, his temperature was just getting worse, even with calpol. His thermometer was malfunctioning and by now he wasn’t wanting to eat so we took him to the GP who took one look at his tonsils and spotted pus! Great… another illness to add to the virus. Max was prescribed penicillin for tonsillitis, but not a flavoured one… I think most of you will know which one I mean! The plain, sugar free one that tastes like it was brewed in the pits of hell. It tasted rancid to me, an adult, so of course Max wouldn’t take it. We tried EVERYTHING!

  • Sneaking it into food
  • Sneaking it into drinks
  • Bribery
  • Sneaking it into the back of a syringe of calpol
  • We attempted to sneak it into a sippy cup but as he only drinks from a 360 cup, this didn’t work
  • Being ‘cruel to be kind’ – this just ended up in him getting even more distressed and he is too strong for one grown adult to pin down and get medicine into!
  • Reasoning with him, to no avail as he doesn’t understand due to his delays

 So, back on the phone to 111 we were at 10pm that same evening!

I was really not impressed that they’d automatically prescribe what I can only describe as ‘liquid ass’ to a toddler, especially one with known sensory difficulties, and within 10 minutes we were down at our local late night pharmacy to get a prescription of the strawberry flavour penicillin (why did they just not give that in the first place?!) to see if Max would tolerate that.

Alas, it was all to no avail. We tried all the tricks again but by now he’d developed an aversion and even calpol was off the cards. We decided to wait until morning, and my mum came armed with a third alternative, this time a different antibiotic with a banana flavouring…


His temperature and distress by this point was getting really concerning so we decided that it was time to see the doctor again.

He needed some medication in his system but we were at a total loss! Every single person we spoke to reeled off the same ideas, which we’d already stressed that we had tried, and seemed pretty skeptical each time we said we had tried the ‘be cruel to be kind’ method of forcing medicine down him. It just wasn’t happening, and our GP felt that she had no other choice but to send us to our local hospital for a paediatrician to take a look. One call to the ward, a letter printed for us, and a call to daddy to come home from work later, and we were on the children’s ward.

As it turns out, IV antibiotics weren’t required.

IV antibiotics, for a little one who wasn’t critically poorly and with little understanding, may have been even more traumatic, so the genius doctor and nurses improvised a plan – they felt that he wasn’t taking medication as his throat was so sore and causing a nasty taste due to all of the pus, so they gave him some numbing throat spray (a traumatic experience in itself) and then 15 minutes later, they tried the first attempt at ‘forcing’ medication orally. Daddy held him tightly and restrained his limbs (not fun and very upsetting for everyone).

I was proved absolutely bloomin’ correct and not a total wuss, because guess what?

Fail! All 2.5 ml was spat and drooled all over the nurse, the floor, the bed and my coat. The nurse looked at me sheepishly… “I see what you mean now, mum!”. The second attempt was more successful, but it took me, daddy and the nurse restraining him to get a partial swallow of the dose, with Max again thrashing, enraged and disgusted which is pretty understandable! We gave him cuddles and kisses to calm him after and he fell asleep on the hospital bed as we waited to be discharged.

The doctors agreed that his sensory issues and possible autism made giving him medication much more complex than usual, and advised that we time antibiotic doses for when more than one adult was around as Max NEEDED to take them due to how unwell he was (which so far has actually worked, apart from being really upsetting).

So, if your little one absolutely loathes taking medicine and kicks off, you’re not alone.

My advice would be to speak to your doctor if they won’t accept medicine in any non-forceful way, such as hidden in yoghurt. If your little one seriously will not tolerate any in any way of administration, then you may need to visit your hospital depending on how poorly they are, so always speak to a doctor.

If being prescribed medicine, always enquire about a flavoured version, or a version that isn’t sugar free, as it may make life a little less stressful for you and your poorly baby.

Love from Katie. Xx

Katie Hodgkins Image
I'm Katie, and I'm a mama, wife, and freelance content creator for Bump, Baby & You. I also help to run our thriving online community over in our Facebook support group, as well as volunteering for my local branch of the National Childbirth Trust. I'm a busy bee and enjoy keeping active, cooking, writing, and fun days out with my little family. My special topics of interest are... autism (as me and my son are both autistic), science, all things parenting and pregnancy related, and The Handmaids Tale!
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