Tonsillitis | All You Should Need to Know

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of your tonsils that looks like two masses of tissue at the back of your throat. Tonsils act as a filter for trapping germs so they don’t enter your body and cause infection. They also make antibodies to fight infection but sometimes they get overwhelmed by viruses and bacteria which make them inflamed.

Tonsillitis occurrence is usually common in children. However, it may happen only once in a while or come back again and again in a short period of time. Signs and symptoms of it include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, swollen tonsils, and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

In most cases, tonsillitis is caused by infection due to a common virus, and bacterial infections. And, the treatment for it depends on the cause of the tonsils. Therefore the proper diagnosis is important to treat tonsils. If all the treatments failed then surgery is a treatment usually performed if tonsillitis occurs frequently.

About Tonsillitis

The tonsils’ main work in our mouth is to help fight germs that entre into our mouth to cause infections in our body. Tonsils protect our body from infection very well but sometimes they affect the tonsils and infect them. If it happens then it simply means you have tonsils. If you have tonsillitis you may feel irritated and it becomes hard to even eat, drink and swallow. You may feel fever too.

Here are some other signs that help you know that some bacteria or a virus-infected your tonsils:

  • Red (swollen or irritated) tonsils
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • A yellow or white coating on it
  • Bad breath


Tonsillitis symptoms generally include sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. But the type of tonsillitis determines exactly what symptoms may occur to you.

Acute Tonsillitis— Tonsils usually occurs in children but there are rare chances of occurring in kids younger than two years old. Symptoms of acute tonsillitis from which kids may suffer are:

  • Difficulty swallowing (It is also known as dysphagia)
  • Painful swallowing (It is also known as odynophagia)
  • Tiredness, malaise, and lethargy
  • White patches, pus with red tonsils
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • Mouth breathing, snoring, or sleep apnea

If you find a fine red rash over your kid’s body suggests that it’s a fever that is complicating a case of tonsillitis. However, these symptoms clear up in generally 3 to 4 days but it may last up to two weeks even with therapy or treatment. It may be possible that some patients experience recurrent acute tonsils in which symptoms return shortly even after antibiotic therapy.

Chronic Tonsillitis— Symptoms of chronic tonsillitis are:

  • Chronic sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Tonsil stones (Debris collected on your tonsils)
  • Lymph nodes in the neck

Peritonsillar Abscess—Peritonsillar abscess is a rare case of tonsils in which a pocket of pus (abscess)  develops around the tonsil. It is usually found in adults and adolescents and rarely occurs in children. The symptoms of peritonsillar are:

  • Fever
  • Severe throat pain
  • Drooling
  • You may feel difficulty in opening your mouth (called trismus)
  • Muffled voice quality
  • You may get one tonsil larger than the other

Tonsillitis Symptoms in Kids

Tonsils usually affect children between preschool ages and mid-teenage years but there are rare chances of occurring tonsillitis in kids less than two years of age. Tonsils through which kids suffer is called acute tonsillitis. Below mentioned are some common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis are:-

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (tender glands) in the neck
  • A scratchy, muffled, or throaty voice
  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • White or yellow coating or patch on the tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Stomachache
  • Stiff neck or neck pain
  • Headache

When kids are unable to describe how they are feeling, symptoms of tonsils generally are:-

  • Kids may be drooling due to difficulty in swallowing
  • Refusal to eat due to painful swallowing
  • Unusual fussiness

Causes & Risk Factors

As we discussed above, bacterial and viral infections cause tonsillitis. A common cause of tonsillitis is streptococcus (strep) bacteria, which can also cause strep throat. Other common viruses that cause tonsillitis are:

  • Adenoviruses
  • Enteroviruses
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Parainfluenza viruses

There are various things that matter a lot and put you at greater risk of getting tonsillitis:

  • Age: It’s a fact that children tend to get more tonsillitis than adults. Kids between the age 5 and 15 are more likely to get tonsillitis through bacterial infections. On the other hand, tonsillitis from viral infections is more common in young children. Moreover, elderly adults are at higher risk of getting tonsils.
  • Germ exposure: Germ exposure can be the reason for tonsillitis in children. Kids usually spend more time with other kids in their school or camp due to which infection spreads and leads to tonsils. In addition, adults who spend a lot of time with their young children, such as teachers and siblings, have more chances of getting infected from bacteria and get tonsillitis.

Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

Tonsilitis can be caused due to bacterial and viral infections. It is considered as contagious which means that viral or bacterial infection can spread to others. However, tonsillitis itself is not contagious but the infection caused by it such as cold, flu can spread.

In addition, how long you remain contagious depends on what type of symptoms you have due to tonsils. Usually, people remain contagious for one or two days to develop symptoms. Its symptoms usually take 3 to 4 days to treat.

You need to stop these infections from spreading:- take off from work and keep your child at home until you both get better. Also, use tissues while coughing or sneezing and throw them in a closed dustbin away. Most importantly, wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.

Tonsillitis and Strep Throat


Tonsillitis and strep throat are different things. But it can be possible that both of these are caused by the same bacteria in some cases. There can be different bacteria and viruses including group A streptococcus bacteria that cause tonsils. Also, these bacteria and viruses are the cause of strep throat too.

Both of these conditions are contagious, so if you have either tonsils or strep throat you should try to stay away from other people.  As we discussed above tonsillitis symptoms, people with strep throat may develop below-mentioned symptoms:-

  • Aches on some body parts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Red spots in small size at the back of your mouth
  • White pus around the tonsils
  • Rash

Your doctor will diagnose by testing these symptoms in both conditions. The treatments for strep throat and bacterial tonsillitis are also same.

Tonsillitis and Covid

Coronavirus and tonsillitis are completely different but some of their symptoms can be similar such as fever and sore throat. According to experts, below is a short guide that helps you differentiate the two.

Tonsillitis: It occurs when the tonsils get infected and inflamed from bacteria or viruses. Tonsils are glands at the back of the throat which help in fighting infection. While tonsillitis can be usually seen in children and adults. However, tonsils can develop at any age whether you are young or old.

COVID-19: It is an infectious disease caused by a new virus that causes a respiratory illness with various symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in some cases, difficulty in breathing.

You can protect yourself from Covid by taking precautions such as washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your hands on your face, wearing a face mask, and most importantly practicing social distancing is necessary to prevent yourself from the pandemic.

When to See a Doctor

It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis if you or your child are suffering from tonsillitis symptoms.

Consult your doctor if your child is having these symptoms:

  • Fever with a sore throat.
  • having sore throat from 24 to 48 hours
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Extreme fatigue, weakness, or fussiness

You need to consult your doctor immediately if your child has any of these signs:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Extreme difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive drooling

Tonsillitis Treatments

In some cases, if a person is not able to treat tonsils at home then doctors can help you get a wide range of treatments.


Over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving medications are used by people to treat the symptoms of tonsillitis. Antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor if tonsillitis is caused due to bacterial infection. It may not apply to people having viral tonsil. Also, doctors do not prescribe it against viruses.

Penicillin is the most common antibiotic people can use to treat their tonsils.  If you are on a course of antibiotics, then you should complete the course even if the symptoms have resolved because if you stop taking antibiotics then the infection may spread again. Moreover, if left untreated, certain types of bacteria may lead to Kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.


When other possible treatments were not available, doctors regularly recommended surgery to treat tonsillitis. Nowadays, doctors do not recommend a tonsillectomy unless the condition is chronic and recurring.

According to research results, tonsils become less active after puberty. As they are functional organs, a surgeon will not remove them unless necessary.

If any doctor suggests a tonsillectomy, it may be because tonsils are causing secondary issues, such as:

  • Sleep apnea- It involves having problems in breathing at night
  • Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • An abscess
  • tonsillar cellulitis,

In any case, if a tonsillectomy is necessary, doctors can choose a variety of methods for it. Doctors have successfully used ultrasonic energy, lasers, cold temperatures, radio waves,  or a heated needle to remove the tonsils.

Surgery is the last option because the negative implications of surgery may have side effects of tonsil removal. Tonsillitis can be irritating and uncomfortable but it will generally get well without any major long-term complications for most people.

Home Remedies

Some simple home remedies that can help you reduce symptoms of tonsil are:

  • Resting: It helps the body to save energy for fighting infection.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids: It will prevent the throat from drying out and you will feel a little more comfortable. When the body is responding to infection then it needs more hydration than usual. Get a soothing effect with warm, caffeine-free drinks.
  • Reduce discomfort with gargling with saltwater
  • Sucking throat lozenges
  • Avoiding tobacco and smoky locations

Tonsillitis Prevention

Tonsillitis prevention is necessary to prevent tonsillitis. Hygiene, good eating habits, and a balanced diet is the best way which can help you prevent tonsillitis.

  • Washing your hands after and before eating. Also clean and wash your hands before touching your face.
  • Don’t share food, utensils, drink, toothbrush, and other personal items with anyone.
  • You should stay away from people or family members suffering from a sore throat or tonsils symptoms.


Tonsillitis is an infection of your tonsils that can be caused due to a virus or bacterial infection. It’s a common condition found in children and teenagers. This bacterial infection that causes tonsillitis is contagious and can be transmitted through the air or even through contaminated objects.  In this condition, you may be contagious for one to two days before symptoms develop and may remain contagious until your symptoms go away.IT may take 3 to 4 days.

If your child is diagnosed with bacterial tonsillitis then you’re usually not contagious because it is possible that your fever is gone and you have been on antibiotics for one or two days. To prevent yourself from infection completely, complete your antibiotic treatment.

In most cases, tonsillitis is mild and goes away within a week. If you have repeated occurrences of tonsillitis consult your doctor to prevent yourself from tonsillitis complications.

Skip to content