What is tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils due to infection. The tonsils are two fleshy lumps, one on the left and one on the right, toward the back of your throat. Tonsils are an important part of your lymphatic system, which helps fight infections. Because of their location, the tonsils often catch bacteria or viruses that enter via the throat.
The terms tonsillitis and strep throat are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s important to learn the difference between the two conditions. Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat that can cause tonsillitis, while tonsillitis is the inflammation and infection of the tonsils. You can get tonsillitis from a viral or bacterial infection.
Tonsillitis mostly affects children from ages two and up. Adults can get tonsillitis too, but it’s not as common. Since the bacteria or virus that causes tonsillitis may be contagious, it’s important to identify symptoms to see if medical attention is needed.
Signs of tonsillitis
You may find that your tonsils are large, red, and swollen. When swallowing, you may feel like there are obstructions in your throat.
White or yellow patches on the tonsils
A buildup of either pus or mucus may create yellow or white patches on the tonsils. These patches might look either like streaks or more like a coating on the tonsils. In more serious cases of tonsillitis, you may find an abscess, which is a pocket of pus that signals an infection,directly on the tonsil.
The bacteria or virus culture in the throat may cause bad breath.
Causes of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. Both bacterial and viral cases are usually spread person-to-person through airborne droplets, coughs, or sneezes. Tonsillitis itself isn’t contagious, but the bacteria or virus that causes it is.
Viral infections are more common in very young children and cause the majority of tonsillitis cases. The virus causing tonsillitis may be a strain of the flu virus, parainfluenza virus, or many other different viruses.
When to see the doctor for tonsillitis
Most cases of tonsillitis should be seen by a doctor. The most urgent symptoms are:
- The Predicted 'Tripledemic' Is Here: Why Isn't There an RSV Vaccine?
- Frozen Stuffed Chicken Products & Microwave Ovens: A Recipe for Salmonella
- First FDA-Approved Fecal-Based Treatment Helps Fight a Tough Superbug
- Seizures Seem Tied to Faster Decline in People With Dementia
- Signs That COVID Infection Might Harm the Liver
- More Health News »
Diagnosis for tonsillitis
When you visit the doctor, they will ask you about your symptoms and conduct a throat and ear examination. They will swab the back of your throat to determine if your infection is viral or bacterial. They may perform a rapid strep test, which tests for bacteria that causes strep throat and shows almost immediate results.
Alternatively, they may want to test for throat culture. The results of this test usually take longer to determine, because they are typically sent to a lab.
Treatments for tonsillitis
Treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause. For bacterial infections, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Viral infections tend to pass more quickly on their own than bacterial cases. There is less the doctor can do in these cases, although they may want to continue monitoring your symptoms. They may prescribe medication or recommend over-the-counter medicine to make you more comfortable.
If you’re suffering from chronic tonsillitis, the doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy, or tonsil removal. This is a routine and fairly common procedure in most hospitals.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cooper Health: “Tonsillitis in Adults.”
ENT Health: “Tonsillitis.”
Healthy Children: “The Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis.”
Healthy Children: “Tonsillitis.”
Healthlink BC: “Tonsillitis.”
Medline Plus: “Tonsillitis.”
Mount Sinai: “Tonsillitis.”
Plain Language Summary for Patients: “Tonsillectomy in Children.”
Top How Do You Know if You Have Tonsillitis Related Articles
Tonsillitis (Adenoiditis)Tonsillitis is a contagious infection with symptoms of bad breath, snoring, congestion, headache, hoarseness, laryngitis, and coughing up blood. Tonsillitis can be caused acute infection of the tonsils, and several types of bacteria or viruses (for example, strep throat or mononucleosis). There are two types of tonsillitis, acute and chronic.
Acute tonsillitis lasts from one to two weeks while chronic tonsillitis can last from months to years. Treatment of tonsillitis and adenoids include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies to relieve pain and inflammation, for example, salt water gargle, slippery elm throat lozenges, sipping warm beverages and eating frozen foods (ice cream, popsicles), serrapeptase, papain, and andrographism Some people with chronic tonsillitis may need surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy).
Augmentin (amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, Augmentin XR, Augmentin ES-600, Amoclan)Amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin Amoclan, Augmentin XR, Augmentin ES-600) is an antibiotic used to treat middle ear infections, sore throat, sinus infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Side effects include abdominal discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, gas, headache, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
Home Remedies for Tonsillitis: Treatment and ReliefTonsillitis usually runs its course. Home remedies may help ease your/your child’s symptoms including getting plenty of rest, gargling, drinking water, washing your hands and taking over-the-counter pain relieving medication.
How Painful Is a Tonsillectomy?Tonsillectomy is the removal of two oval-shaped tissue pads, named tonsils, from the back of the throat. Tonsillectomy is a popular treatment for airway obstruction and recurrent tonsillar infection in children. Tonsillectomy causes mild or moderate pain in most people.
Is It Bad to Have the Tonsils Removed?Tonsils are the two protruding tissue masses at the back of your throat. Tonsillectomy means the removal of the tonsils from the back of your throat. The concerns about removing the tonsils include concerns about immunity and the possibility of antibiotic advancement.
Is Tonsillitis Contagious?Tonsillitis is a common infection, especially in kids. Tonsillitis is caused by viruses and bacteria like the flu and herpes simplex virus, and Streptococcus bacteria. These viruses and bacterium are spread person to person. Symptoms of tonsillitis are a yellow or white coating on the tonsils, throat pain, pain when swallowing, and hoarseness.
Tonsil Stones PictureTonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths) form when bacteria and mucus get trapped and calcify in your tonsils' nooks and crannies, leaving a hard piece of matter and a bad taste in your throat. See a picture of Tonsil Stones and learn more about the health topic.
Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy SurgeryTonsillectomy is the surgical removal of both tonsils. A tonsillectomy may be performed in cases of recurrent tonsillitis, or treat sleep apnea and some speech disorders.
What Causes an Abscess in Your Throat (Peritonsillar Abscess)?An abscess in your throat is a collection (or pocket) of pus in the space (peritonsillar space) that lies between each tonsil and wall of the throat. Medically, it is known as peritonsillar abscess or quinsy.
Why Do People Get Tonsil Stones?What are tonsil stones and what causes them? Learn the signs of tonsil stones, what causes them, and what you can do to treat them.
Will Tonsillitis Go Away on Its Own?Tonsils are the two oval-shaped pads of tissue in the back of your throat. They help protect your body from infection. However, sometimes they get infected and inflamed (red and swollen) and this is called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis symptoms usually go away after three to four days.