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Treatment

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. In severe infections, these antibiotics may be given intravenously (into a vein). You usually will need to take antibiotics for at least 10 days, and it is important to take all the pills that are prescribed, even if you are feeling better.

Many abscesses will not respond to antibiotics alone, and will need to be drained. This can be done with a needle or by making a small incision and suctioning out the fluid. This often is done in a doctor's office or emergency room, but occasionally may need to be done in an operating room, especially if the infection has extended down into your neck. Your doctor will provide adequate sedation and pain medication to make you comfortable during this procedure. Because the symptoms make it difficult to eat or drink, some people may need intravenous fluids (injected into a vein) to treat or prevent dehydration.

If tonsillitis or a peritonsillar abscess keeps coming back, you may need to have your tonsils removed surgically in a procedure called a tonsillectomy.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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