Tonsillitis

Specialty of Otolaryngology / ENT

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils that are located at the back of the throat. It is very common in children and adolescents, but adults can suffer from tonsillitis too.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

If you have tonsillitis, your tonsils will be red and swollen. You will also have a combination of the following symptoms:

  • A sore throat
  • A fever (temperature of 38C or over)
  • A headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Earache
  • White pus-filled spots on the tonsils
  • Swollen glands in the neck

What causes tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is caused by a viruses or bacterial infection. Streptococcal tonsillitis is the most common cause. The tonsils are vulnerable to infection because they are one of the body’s first lines of defence in the immune system.

Can tonsillitis be prevented?

Tonsillitis can be prevented by practising good hygiene:

  • Not sharing eating and drinking utensils.
  • Avoiding contact with those infected.
  • Washing hands frequently.

How is tonsillitis treated?

If your tonsillitis is caused by a virus, then at-home care is the only treatment for recovery. The following can be used to promote a quicker, more comfortable recovery:

  • Throat lozenges
  • Rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Using painkillers to manage discomfort

If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, then you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics. These must be taken as instructed, and the full course finished.

People who suffer from tonsillitis frequently are advised to have the tonsils removed.

If an abscess forms between the tonsils (this is called a quinsy), see a doctor, as this may need to be drained.

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