Understanding Tonsillitis


What Is Tonsillitis

what is tonsillitis

Your tonsils are actually lymph nodes found at the back of the throat on both sides. They work as a defense mechanism fighting off bacteria and viruses that enter your body through the mouth. But sometimes the tonsils themselves can become infected and this condition is called tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is a very contagious, common childhood illness; although it can occur at any age it is most common in children around preschool age to mid teens. It is easily diagnosed and usually lasts around 7-10 days.


Tonsillitis can be:

Acute – Sudden and severe onset

Recurrent – Multiple episodes in one year

Chronic – Persistent, Long lasting symptoms


Causes of tonsillitis

The most common way of getting tonsillitis is through a virus like the common cold or flu, although bacterial infections like strep throat or streptococcal infection (streptococcus A) can also cause tonsillitis. If this kind of infection is left untreated it can lead to conditions such as scarlet fever, middle ear infections and rheumatic fever.


It is quite rare for children under three years of age to get bacterial tonsillitis.


Symptoms Of Tonsillitis

The main symptoms of tonsillitis may include:

  • A sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice or no voice
  • Temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Generally feeling sick
  • Feeling tired
  • Coughing


More severe symptoms may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Neck stiffness
  • Painful, swollen glands in your neck (may feel a lump on the side of your neck)
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Tonsils that have yellow or white spots on them


Young children may have increased irritability, excessive drooling and a decreased appetite.



Home Care Tips

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get lots of rest
  • Gargle with warm salted water regularly (1/2 teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz glass of warm water)
  • You may use medicated throat lozenges
  • You may use a humidifier to moisten the air
  • Avoid smoke and other irritants
  • You can use over the counter medications for pain such as paracetamol, acetaminophen and ibuprofin


When To See A Doctor

Treatments for more severe cases of tonsillitis may include antibiotics or a tonsillectomy.


If you experience the following symptoms see your doctor immediately

  • Any problems breathing, no matter how minor
  • A fever higher than 39.5°C (103˚F)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Neck Stiffness
  • A sore throat that lasts longer than two days