What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. A pair of soft tissues located at the back of the throat that are a part of the first line of defense of the immune system is called tonsils. These tissues act like filters by trapping germs that will enter your airways to cause infection. Also, tonsils produce antibodies to fight infections that may occur. If they are infected by bacteria or viruses, they become swollen and inflamed. A prompt and accurate diagnosis is crucial because the treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause. Let us check out the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of tonsillitis here. 

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Tonsillitis is an infection of your tonsils, two masses of tissue at the back of your throat. Your tonsils act as filters, trapping germs that could otherwise enter your airways and cause infection. They also make antibodies to fight infection. But sometimes, they get overwhelmed by bacteria or viruses.



Types of Tonsillitis

  • Acute: The average duration of acute tonsillitis is one week. Most acute infections of the tonsils are due to viruses or bacteria and usually are contagious by direct person-to-person contact.
  • Chronic: Enlarged and chronically infected tonsils interfere with children's sleep and last for longer duration. If a person is stressed, exhausted or has already been infected with a virus, for example, the immune system may be weakened.
  • Recurrent: A frequency of more than seven per year for one year, five per year for two years, or three per year for three years, and for whom there is no other explanation for the recurrent symptoms.

Tonsillitis symptoms

  • Pharyngeal Tonsils Symptoms - It causes redness of the eyes, dry cough and runny or stuffy nose.
  • Palatine Tonsils Symptoms - These are bundles of lymphatic tissue located in the lateral oropharynx. They sit in the isthmus of the fauces, bordered anteriorly by the palatoglossal arch.
  • Lingual Tonsils Symptoms - Lingual tonsils can be a sign of infection or irritation from things like smoke or polluted air.

Children between pre-school and mid-teenage years are most often affected by tonsillitis. Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis in children include:

  • Tonsils, red and swollen
  • Coating or patches of white or yellow on the tonsils
  • Soreness of throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Scratchy, muffled or throaty voice
  • Stinky breath
  • Stomach Ache
  • Stiff neck
  • Headaches

Signs of tonsillitis in adults can include:

  • Drooling due to painful or difficult swallowing
  • Refusal from feeding
  • Uncommon fussiness

When to see a physician?

If your child has signs that might suggest tonsillitis, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis.

Contact your doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Fever with a sore throat
  • A sore throat that does not go away within a day
  • Painful swallowing
  • Extreme fatigue, exhaustion or irritability

If your child has any of these symptoms, seek emergency care:

  • Breathing issues
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Excessive drooling

Tonsillitis Causes

Viral Tonsils - If you have tonsillitis that's caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu, your symptoms may be milder.

Bacterial Tonsils - If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, such as a streptococcal infection, your symptoms will usually be more severe and you may also have bad breath.

Tonsillitis is caused by common viruses, but the cause may also be bacterial infections. Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes strep throat, is the most common bacterium that causes tonsillitis. Tonsillitis can also cause other strains of strep and other bacteria.

One can have viral and bacterial tonsillitis at the same time as well. Because of this, a person could have strep throat with tonsillitis. However, a different bacteria could cause tonsillitis. Other germs, such as viruses, can increase its severity.

Why do tonsils get infected?

The tonsils are the first line of defense of the immune system against bacteria and viruses which invade your mouth. The tonsils may be especially susceptible to infection and inflammation due to this feature. Nevertheless, the immune system role of the tonsil decreases after puberty, a factor that may account for the occasional adult cases of tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis Risk Factors

Tonsillitis risk factors include:

  • Young age - Tonsillitis affects children more frequently, and bacteria-induced tonsillitis is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15.
  • Frequent germ exposure - School-age children are in direct touch with their peers and are often exposed to tonsillitis-causing viruses or bacteria.

Tonsillitis Complications

Complications may be caused by inflammation or swelling of tonsils from recurrent or persistent (chronic) tonsillitis, such as:

  • Disrupted respiration during sleep
  • Infection that spreads deep into the tissue around it
  • Infection leading to a pus accumulation behind a tonsil

Tonsillitis Treatment and  Prevention

The germs that cause tonsillitis, both viral and bacterial, are infectious. The greatest tonsillitis cure, therefore, is the practice of good hygiene. Teach your children to:

  • Carefully and regularly wash your hands, particularly after using the toilet and before eating.
  • Stop exchanging food, glasses, bottles of water or utensils.
  • Upon diagnosis of tonsillitis, swap his or her toothbrush
  • To help your child avoid a bacterial or viral infection from spreading to others:
  • Hold the child at home if he or she is sick
  • Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue or into his or her elbow when appropriate.

Home Remedies For Tonsillitis

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Eat soft foods, especially if it hurts to swallow.
  • Gargle with warm salt water.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain.
  • Suck on a throat lozenge or hard candy.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to moisten the air.


Since adequate tonsillitis treatment depends on the cause, a prompt and accurate diagnosis is crucial. Surgery to remove tonsils is typically done only when tonsillitis occurs regularly, does not respond to other therapies or causes severe complications after a common tonsillitis treatment procedure is performed. This disease is a part of preventive health benefits provided with various health insurance plans.

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