- Treating a Sore Throat
- Take the Strep Throat Quiz
- Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Symptoms and Signs
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Tonsillitis - Snoring and Other Causes
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
- Tonsillitis and adenoid infection definition and facts
- What are the tonsils and adenoids?
- What is the purpose of the tonsils and adenoids?
- What are the signs and symptoms of tonsillitis or an adenoid infection?
- What does tonsillitis look like (pictures)?
- Is tonsillitis contagious?
- What are common causes tonsillitis and adenoid infection?
- Which specialties of doctors treat tonsillitis and adenoid infections?
- How are tonsillitis and adenoid infection diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for tonsillitis and adenoid infection?
- What natural or home remedies help soothe tonsillitis pain and inflammation?
- When should the tonsils and/or adenoids be removed (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy)?
Which specialties of doctors treat tonsillitis and adenoid infections?
A primary care provider (PCP) such as a family practitioner, an internist, or a child's pediatrician may diagnose and treat simple tonsillitis and adenoid infections. If your tonsillitis is severe enough that you go to an emergency department, you will be seen by an emergency medicine specialist. If infections are severe, chronic, or recurrent, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist, also called an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist for further treatment or surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids.
How are tonsillitis and adenoid infection diagnosed?
Diagnosis of tonsillitis and adenoid infection is based on a medical history and a physical exam.
If symptoms suggest strep throat, the doctor may order a throat culture or rapid strep test, which are done by swabbing the back of the throat and checking for the Streptococcus bacteria. This can be performed in the doctor's office. If the Epstein-Barr virus, which can cause mononucleosis, is suspected as a cause for the tonsillitis, a blood test for mononucleosis may be done.
Strep throat is more likely if at least three of the following signs or symptoms are present:
- White or yellow spots or coating on the throat and/or tonsils (tonsillar exudates)
- Red spots on the roof of the mouth (upper palette)
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes on the neck
- Absence of coughing or sneezing
Antibiotic treatment may be needed if the infection is caused by bacteria. In more severe, recurrent or chronic cases, surgery to remove the tonsils or adenoids (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy) may be recommended to cure the condition.
What is the treatment for tonsillitis and adenoid infection?
Bacterial infections of the tonsils and adenoids are treated with various antibiotics. Tonsillitis caused by the Streptococcus bacteria can lead to serious complications. Once treatment begins, it is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed because if you stop taking the drugs before they are finished it can lead to adverse consequences and regrowth of the bacteria. Surgical removal is considered in situations resistant to medical therapy or in frequently recurrent infections.
Viral causes of tonsillitis or enlarged adenoids are often treated with only supportive care (hydration and control of fever). Antibiotics are not effective for viral infection of the tonsils.
A peritonsillar abscess should be drained either by removal of fluid with a needle and syringe (needle aspiration), cutting open with a scalpel (incision), or tonsillectomy. Chronic stones in the tonsil can be removed with a clean finger or with a blunt probe. Massive enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids causing airway obstruction may be treated with a long course of antibiotics, or even a brief course of steroids to reduce inflammation (cortisone-related medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone).