Tonsillitis: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

January 10, 2024

Tonsillitis: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment
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Your tonsils play a vital role in your immune system and are your first line of defence against bacteria and viruses that you swallow or breathe in. Tonsillitis is a common condition that occurs when one or more tonsils get infected. 

What are tonsils?

The two separate masses of tissue at the back of your throat are your tonsils. The inflammation of the tonsils is called tonsillitis.

The tonsils function as filters, keeping pathogens out of your airways and away from you. Additionally, they create antibodies to fight off infections. Sometimes, though, bacteria or viruses overpower them. This might cause them to inflame and become swollen.

Tonsillitis is common, especially in children. Tonsillitis might affect them infrequently or often in a short period of time.

Types of Tonsillitis

There are three categories of tonsillitis known:

Acute Tonsillitis: Under this category of tonsillitis, the symptoms may be visible for three to four days but they can go on until two weeks. 

Recurrent Tonsillitis: Under this category of tonsillitis, a person can get tonsillitis many times in a year.

Chronic Tonsillitis: Under this category of tonsillitis, the infection can persist for a really long duration.

Causes of Tonsillitis?

Infections caused by both bacteria and viruses can result in tonsillitis. To choose the best course of action, it is imperative that your doctor accurately diagnoses tonsillitis.

Viral Tonsillitis: Numerous viruses can cause inflammation in the tonsils, which can lead to tonsillitis. Some of these viruses can be Adenoviruses, Epstein-Barr virus, Herpes simplex virus, influenza viruses, enteroviruses, and HIV.

About 70% of cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses, which are usually more common and less severe than bacterial tonsillitis. Treatment with antibiotics is not recommended for this specific strain of the disease.

Bacterial Tonsillitis: Another common cause of tonsillitis and strep throat is the strep (Streptococcus) bacteria. Sometimes, other bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, can cause inflammation in your tonsils. Usually, antibiotics work well to treat these infections.

Diagnosis of Tonsillitis

Diagnosing tonsillitis is simple. Your doctor will conduct an assessment of your tonsils. They’ll look at your tonsils to see if they’re swollen, red, or packed with pus. They’ll also check for fever. In addition to checking your nose, ears, and ears for signs of infection, they may feel for soreness and swelling on the sides of your neck.

Tests may be required to identify the cause of your tonsillitis. Among them are:

Swab test: To check for strep bacteria, your doctor will test cells from your throat and your saliva. A cotton swab will be run along the back of your throat by them. Usually, results are available in 10 to 15 minutes. Your tonsillitis was caused by a virus if the results of these tests are negative.

Blood examination: This is referred to by your doctor as a complete blood cell count (CBC). In order to determine whether a virus or bacteria caused your tonsillitis, it looks for high and low blood cell counts.

Rash: The strep throat infection-related rash known as scarlatina will be checked for by your doctor.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

The following are examples of tonsillitis symptoms: 

  • a sore throat 
  • soreness or difficulty swallowing
  • the tonsils may have red, swollen, white, or yellow spots.
  • raspy voice
  • foul breath 
  • chills and a fever 
  • Stomach ache 
  • Earache 
  • Jaw and neck soreness from enlarged lymph nodes

Furthermore, small children might suffer from a loss in appetite, drool too much, and become more agitated.

Risk Factors for Tonsillitis

Risk factors for acute tonsillitis include:

  • The age group between 5 and 15 years old is most susceptible to bacterial tonsillitis, which primarily affects children.
  • School-age children frequently come into contact with classmates who have tonsillitis-causing bacteria or viruses.
  • Some people are more likely than others to get bacterial tonsillitis again.

Complications from Tonsillitis

Complications are typically limited to bacterial infections. These include:

  • A middle ear infection
  • A pus-filled mass around your tonsil (peritonsillar abscess).
  • Bad breath can result from tiny lumps on your tonsils called tonsil stones.
  • Problems with breathing or sporadic breathing while you sleep (obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Tonsillar cellulitis, an infection that spreads and affects the surrounding tissues.

Treatment of Tonsillitis

Mild cases of tonsillitis may not always require treatment, particularly if the illness is brought on by a virus similar to the common cold.The doctor will not give you antibiotics. In seven to ten days, your child should recover.These are the only treatments available if a virus is the likely cause of tonsillitis. At-home caring can help the child during the recovery time, such as:


  • Help your child get as much sleep as possible.
  • To keep your child’s throat moist and avoid dehydration, provide him or her with plenty of water.
  • Cold treats like ice pops and warm liquids like broth, caffeine-free tea, or warm water with honey can help relieve sore throats.
  • Gargling with salt-water can help soothe the child’s throat.
  • Sucking on lozenges might help to ease sore throats.
  • By keeping the child away from throat irritants like strong smelling cleaning supplies and cigarette smoke .

More serious forms of tonsillitis may be treated with antibiotics or with a tonsillectomy. In the event that a bacterial infection is the cause of your tonsillitis, your physician will recommend taking antibiotics.If a tonsillitis sufferer gets dehydrated, they might also need intravenous fluids. 

A tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat bacterial tonsillitis that is resistant to antibiotics, chronic tonsillitis, or tonsillitis that recurs frequently.Painkillers for sore throats can also be helpful while the throat heals.

When should I visit a doctor?

If any or all of the following symptoms continue, it’s time for you to visit your physician. The following are signs of tonsillitis that needs immediate diagnosis :

  • Excessive drooling in a child
  • Continuous fever
  • A rough-feeling red rash 
  • Sensitive or enlarged lymph glands in the neck
  • Pain while breathing or swallowing


Inflammation of the tonsils is the hallmark of tonsillitis, which can be brought on by either bacteria or viruses. To choose the best course of action for treating your tonsillitis, it’s critical to identify its underlying cause. Even though tonsillitis is extremely uncomfortable, it rarely poses a serious risk to life and usually goes away in a few days with rest, fluids, and occasionally medication as directed by a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does tonsillitis spread easily?

The infections that cause tonsillitis can spread, but tonsillitis itself is not communicable. Contact with respiratory droplets or saliva from an infected person can result in the transmission of bacterial tonsillitis.

2. Will tonsillitis clear up by itself?

Usually, viral tonsillitis clears up on its own in a week or so. The course of bacterial tonsillitis usually lasts 10 days, but in order to lower the possibility of complications, you’ll probably need to take antibiotics.

3. When can I resume my job or studies?

Until your fever goes down and you can swallow comfortably again, you should remain at home. Usually, this requires three or four days.Consult your doctor for further advice.

4. If I have tonsillitis, what can I anticipate?

With plenty of fluids and rest, the majority of viral tonsillitis cases resolve in a few days. Bacterial tonsillitis is usually cleared up with antibiotics in 10 days or less. Usually, tonsillitis doesn’t result in any major or long-lasting health issues.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


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