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What is Tonsillitis?

The term tonsillitis is used to describe a condition which causes swelling or inflammation of the throat.

The tonsils are lymph nodes found on either side of the throat at the back of the oral cavity and act as a filter, collecting any germs, viruses or bacteria entering the mouth and preventing these pathogens from reaching further into the internal organs of the body. Any bacterial or viral infections can cause tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis can be seen as small white spots located on the tonsils. The lymph nodes located on the sides of the neck or jaw may also be swollen and tender to touch.

With correct treatment, tonsillitis will usually clear-up after the 3rd day of taking antibiotics.

What causes Tonsillitis?
  • Common cause of tonsillitis include viral and bacterial infections.
  • Viral infections include infections caused by influenza, the rhinovirus, adenovirus, coronavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, the Herpes Simplex virus or HIV.
  • Bacterial infections are commonly caused by streptococcus and staphylococcus.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

Common Tonsillitis symptoms include:

  • An extremely sore or scratchy throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • White streaks or pus-like spots developing on the tonsils
  • Headaches and pain felt in the temple and forehead region
  • Fevers and high temperatures (chills may also be experienced)
  • Associated shooting or stabbing ear pain
  • A furry white to yellow coating developing on the tongue
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Changes in voice tone and clarity

Complications of Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis can cause numerous complications including:

  • A decrease or narrowing of breathing airways as a result of swollen tonsils
  • As swallowing is painful, a person may shy away from drinking fluids causing dehydration
  • In severe cases, tonsillitis can result in heart problems and rheumatic fever
  • Pharyngitis may occur due to a spread of the infection.
  • Peritonsillar abscesses may occur as a result of prolonged tonsillitis
  • Step that has not been treated can result in kidney disease known as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis  
  • Infections and inflammation of the tonsils may spread to the internal jugular vein leading to septicemia

Testing for Tonsillitis

A test may be performed in your doctor’s office during the initial consultation known as a rapid strep test. This test is not however always true and can test normal when in fact strep throat is present. It is for this reason that a doctor or GP may take a swab of the throat and send this off to the laboratory to undergo strep culture.

Treatment for Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis should only be treated if swollen tonsils do not decrease in size and become less tender or painful. Antibiotics are often prescribed in cases where tonsillitis does not clear up on its own.
For tonsillitis caused by strep, antibiotics are the main choice of treatment which a doctor or GP will prescribe.

Other tips to follow when suffering with tonsillitis include:

  • Gargle your mouth out with lukewarm water that contains salt
  • Sucking of lozenges helps reduce pain and discomfort. Certain cough sweets also contain anti-inflammatory properties which then have a soothing effect on a sore throat
  • OTC (over-the-counter) medications can be used to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Ensure you drink panty of fluids
  • Be sure to rest as this helps the body fight off any bacterial or viral infection

In chronic cases of tonsillitis, a tonsillectomy or surgical removal of the tonsils may be recommended.




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