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Woman in pain | Healthier Me TodayTonsillitis refers to the infection of the tonsils. It is a common ailment, especially in young children. Tonsils occur at the back of the throat as two raised masses on each side. When tonsils get infected, a sore throat develops. This can cause pain and difficulties swallowing. Tonsils play an important role in preventing infections. They do this by trapping germs that could end up in the airways. Tonsils also make antibodies that help the body fight infections. Sometimes, viruses and bacteria can lead to inflammation and swelling of the tonsils. The result is tonsillitis. Tonsillitis can occur once or many times. The pathogens can also pass from one person to another which is why it affects children most. The symptoms clear within 7 to 10 days. Some people experience chronic tonsillitis that can lead to complications like;

  • Obstructive sleep apnea whereby one experiences breathing difficulties when sleeping
  • Tonsillar cellulitis where the infection spreads to the surrounding tissue
  • Peritonsillar abscess where pus collects behind the tonsils

Types of Tonsillitis

There are different types of tonsillitis. They include;

Acute Tonsillitis 

Every child will develop acute tonsillitis at least once in their life. This type of tonsillitis is common with symptoms lasting about ten days. The symptoms usually improve with home remedies or antibiotics. 

Chronic Tonsillitis 

Chronic tonsillitis is tonsillitis that occurs for more than ten days. The symptoms may also be long lasting and may include;

  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Very tender lymph nodes

Chronic tonsillitis also causes tonsil stones. This is a buildup of saliva, food, and dead cells in the tonsil crevices. These deposits harden with time and resemble small stones. If you suffer from chronic tonsillitis, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils. 

Recurrent Tonsillitis 

Recurrent tonsillitis occurs many times a year. The doctor may diagnose you with recurrent tonsillitis if you;

  • Develop tonsillitis or a sore throat five to seven times a year
  • If tonsillitis has occurred at least five times in each of the last two years
  • If tonsillitis has occurred at least three times in each of the past three years

Some studies suggest that recurrent and chronic tonsillitis could be due to biofilms found in the folds of tonsils. Biofilms are microorganisms that have developed a resistance to antibiotics. This results in repeat infections. At the same time, genetics may also lead to recurrent tonsillitis.

Viral Tonsillitis 

The most common cause of tonsillitis is viral infections. Any virus that causes the common cold can also cause tonsillitis. Other viruses like hepatitis A, rhinovirus, HIV, and Epstein-Barr virus can also cause tonsillitis. Viral tonsillitis causes symptoms like a stuffy nose and coughing. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses. What can help relieve the symptoms are pain killers, hydration, and adequate rest.

Bacterial Tonsillitis

This is most common among children aged five years and young teens. The main cause is strep bacteria. The doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection. Some viral tonsillitis treatments can also work. 

Common Symptoms of Tonsillitis 

Tonsillitis comes with common symptoms like;

  • A sore throat that causes pain especially when swallowing
  • Swollen or red tonsils that may fill with pus
  • Headaches, fever, and fatigue
  • Pain and discomfort in the neck and the ears
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Inflamed lymph nodes

In severe cases, tonsillitis may also cause other symptoms like;

  • Stomach pain accompanied by vomiting
  • Nausea
  • A furry tongue
  • Bad breath due to pus buildup
  • Difficulties opening your mouth
  • Voice changes due to the inflammation of the tonsils

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

To diagnose tonsillitis, the doctor will conduct a physical exam. They will also check for swelling and redness. They will also check for fever and may feel the sides of the neck for pain and swelling. The doctor can also look into the nose and ears to determine if there is an infection. At times, the doctor may also order more tests.

A throat swab: The doctor will test the cells and saliva for strep bacteria. The doctor runs a cotton swab at the back of the throat and results should be ready in fifteen minutes. 

A blood test: The blood test determines whether your tonsillitis is due to a bacteria or virus. 

Scarlatina test: The doctor checks for scarlatina. This is a rash that occurs after a strep throat infection. 

How to Treat Tonsillitis

There are several treatment plans for tonsillitis. They include medications, tonsil surgery, and home remedies.

Medications: If your tonsillitis is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed.

Tonsillectomy: This is the last option if you have chronic or recurrent tonsillitis. It’s also recommended if your tonsillitis causes severe complications like breathing difficulties. Tonsillectomy involves the complete removal of the tonsils. The procedure has proven successful in reducing throat infections in young children. 

How to Manage Tonsillitis

If you have tonsillitis, the best thing you can do is give yourself time to heal. You can do this by;

  • Resting to preserve energy so that the body can better fight the infection
  • Remaining hydrated 
  • Gargling warm salty water to prevent infections
  • Use of humidifiers since dry air can irritate your throat more
  • Avoiding irritants like tobacco
  • Finishing your round of antibiotics even when you feel better
  • Washing hands often and encouraging your kids to do the same 
  • Not sharing food, drinks as well as utensils, and items like toothbrushes
  • Avoiding someone with a sore throat especially if you are prone to tonsillitis


  1. Can tonsillitis spread through kissing? Tonsillitis occurs due to either a virus or bacteria. As such, kissing can spread pathogens that cause tonsillitis.
  2. Is it possible to prevent tonsillitis in children? While most children get tonsillitis at some point in their life, you can still protect them. This could be by taking the same measures you take to protect them against flu or cold.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!