Last updated date: 02-Feb-2023
Originally Written in English
Tonsillitis is an infection and inflammation of the tonsils. The two tiny lumps of the soft tissue at the back of the throat, one on either side, are known as tonsils. When you open your mouth and stick out your tongue, you can clearly see the tonsils in a mirror.
Tonsils are an essential part of the immune system as they trap some of the germs that can make you ill. If these tonsils get infected, they swell and become painful, making swallowing difficult. Tonsillitis infection is also known as tonsillopharyngitis, but its most often referred to as a sore throat. It is more common among children, but it may affect people of all ages. The underlying infection's cause determines treatment.
Categories of Tonsillitis
The doctor usually categorizes tonsillitis into acute tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis, and recurrent tonsillitis.
- Acute tonsillitis
Acute tonsillitis is very common in minors. It affects nearly every child at some point in their lives. However, it usually resolves with home treatments.
Acute tonsillitis is described as a case of tonsillitis that lasts for about ten days or less. It's possible that you have chronic or persistent tonsillitis if the symptoms last long or if you get tonsillitis several times in a year.
- Chronic tonsillitis
The signs of chronic tonsillitis last longer than those of acute tonsillitis. You might have a long-term experience with a sore throat, halitosis (bad breath), and tender lymph nodes around the neck.
Tonsil stones can form when saliva, dead cells, and food accumulate in the crevices of the tonsils as a result of chronic tonsillitis. The debris may eventually harden to form small stones. They can become loose on their own, or the doctor can surgically remove them.
- Recurrent tonsillitis
Both chronic and recurrent tonsillitis are almost similar. Usually, recurrent tonsillitis is defined as tonsillitis or sore throat that occurs 5 to 7 times a year.
Research shows that recurrent and chronic tonsillitis may occur due to biofilms in the folds of the tonsils. Biofilms refer to the microorganisms groups that have increased resistance, causing repeated tonsils infections.
Signs and Symptoms of Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis strep throat signs and symptoms usually occur suddenly and can include the following;
- Sore and itchy throat
- Red and swollen tonsils
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Yellow or white patches or coating on the tonsils
- A scratchy or muffled voice
- Tender and enlarged lymph nodes on the neck
- Bad breath
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Vomiting and stomachache
In the younger children who cannot express how they feel, you may notice changes such as reduced appetite, excess drooling, and extreme irritability.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you have any of the following signs, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible;
- High fever that is more than 103°F
- Stiffness in the spine
- Muscle weakness
- A sore throat that persists for more than two days
Tonsillitis can make the throat swell to the point that breathing becomes difficult. In case this occurs, seek medical help right away. Although certain episodes of tonsillitis may resolve on their own with time, others require medication and other forms of treatments.
Causes of Tonsillitis
The first line of protection against infection is your tonsils. They contain white blood cells, which aid in the battle against illness in the body. Thus, the tonsils are responsible for fighting off the bacteria and viruses that get into the body via the nose and mouth. Tonsils, on the other hand, are sometimes susceptible to infection from such invaders.
Like in the common cold, a virus or a bacterial infection, like in strep throat, may cause tonsillitis.
Bacterial tonsillitis: Bacteria accounts for about15 to 30 percent of tonsillitis outbreaks. Strep throat mostly occurs due to strep bacteria, but other bacteria may also cause tonsillitis. Tonsillitis bacterial is most popular in children aged 5 to 15.
Viral tonsillitis: Viruses most often cause tonsillitis. The viruses that trigger cold are usually the cause of tonsillitis. They include hepatitis A, Epstein-Barr virus, rhinovirus, and HIV. The Epstein-Barr virus can lead to both tonsillitis and mononucleosis. Tonsillitis can sometimes occur as a secondary infection in people who have mono. The symptoms of viral tonsillitis can include a stuffy nose and coughing.
Risk Factors of Tonsillitis
Some of the risk factors that contribute to tonsillitis are;
Age: Tonsillitis is most common in children, while bacteria tonsillitis is most common in children aged 5 to 15.
Regular germ exposure: School-aged children are often exposed to bacteria or viruses that can lead to tonsillitis due to their close interaction with others.
Is Tonsillitis Infection Contagious?
You might be infectious for 24 to 48 hours before you begin to show any symptoms if you have tonsillitis. It's possible that you will spread the disease to other people until you are not sick anymore.
If you have bacterial tonsillitis and take antibiotics, you won’t be infectious after 24 hours. When a person with tonsillitis coughs or sneezes close to you and you inhale the droplets, you will get the infection. Also, touching contaminated objects, such as the doorknob or table, and then put your hand in the mouth or nose, you are likely to get tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis is more likely to spread when you're in close contact with a lot of people. This is why the disease is so common among school-aged kids. To stop the transmission of tonsillitis, it's good to remain at home if you show the symptoms. After exposure or coming to close contact with a person with tonsillitis, signs usually appear 2 to 4 days later.
To determine whether you have tonsillitis, the physician will;
- Look for swelling, redness, or white spots around the tonsils in your throat.
- Inquire about the symptoms you are experiencing, including a fever, running nose, cough, stomachache, or a rash.
- Check for other infection signs in the ears or nose.
- Touch the sides of the neck to check if you have swollen and tender lymph nodes.
If the doctor detects tonsillitis, he or she will proceed to determine if the source is bacteria or virus. You may thus undergo the following tests;
This is a simple procedure that involves rubbing a sterile swab at the back of the throat to obtain a sample of secretions in this simple. The sample is then brought to the lab to test for streptococcal bacteria.
If the rapid in-clinic examination is positive, then it means that you are almost definitely suffering from a bacterial infection. If the result is negative, then you are most likely suffering from a viral infection. However, the doctor will wait for the more accurate out-of-clinic laboratory test to assess the infection's cause.
Complete blood cell count (CBC):
The doctor can conduct a CBC using a small sample of the blood. This examination, which is usually performed in a clinic, gives a count of the various types of blood cells. The outline of elevated, average, and below-average can help determine if a bacteria or virus causes an infection.
A complete blood count (CBC) is not normally necessary for strep throat diagnosis. If the strep throat laboratory outcome is negative, the doctor might recommend CBC to ascertain the trigger of tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis Treatment Options
The source of the infection determines the form of the tonsillitis cure approach you receive. Although the symptoms of viral and bacterial tonsillitis are sometimes the same, the remedies are not. The medical provider can thus recommend the following options;
The doctor can prescribe antibiotics if your tonsillitis is a result of a bacterial infection. The most popular antibiotic treatment for tonsillitis triggered by group A streptococcus is penicillin, which is administered orally for ten days. The doctor will recommend an alternative antibiotic if you or your young one is allergic to penicillin.
Even if the signs disappear completely, one must complete the entire course of antibiotics. The infection could get worse or spread to other areas of the body if you don't take all of your medicine as prescribed. Also, failure to finish the entire course of antibiotics will put your child at risk for rheumatic fever and severe kidney inflammation.
A tonsillectomy is a procedure that removes the tonsils. It's usually prescribed for people who have chronic or persistent tonsillitis or for people who experience complications from tonsillitis, or whose symptoms do not improve.
A tonsillectomy can be beneficial if you have experienced tonsillitis or strep throat 5 to 7 times in the previous year. The procedure can also help ease swallowing difficulty and breathing issues associated with tonsillitis.
For tonsillitis in kids, the surgery helps minimize the number of infections. However, research shows that adults who underwent surgery while young have high chances of long-term infectious and respiratory diseases.
A tonsillectomy can lower your risk of strep throat. However, there is still a possibility that you may still develop strep throat as well as other infections of the throat even after removal of the tonsils.
You won't have to remain in the hospital after undergoing a tonsillectomy because it's generally an outpatient operation. The entire procedure normally takes a few minutes to an hour. After surgery, you should be able to go home within a few hours.
It normally takes 7 to 10 days to recover completely. Following tonsillitis surgery, you can experience pain around the throat, jaw, ears, and neck. The doctor will advise on the types of medications to take to deal with this.
When you are recovering, make sure that you take a lot of rest and drink plenty of water. However, do not consume any dairy products during the first 24 hours.
For a few days after the surgery, you may experience a low fever. You may also notice a small amount of blood in the nose or mouth. If you have a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit or bright red blood coming from the nose or mouth, see your doctor immediately.
- At-home care
If your child's tonsillitis is due to bacterial or viral infection, at-home treatment approaches may help them feel better and heal faster. If a viral infection is suspected to cause tonsillitis, these are the only options for treatment. Hence, you won’t have to use antibiotics. Within seven to ten days, your child should be feeling much better.
Tonsillitis home remedies you can consider include;
- Drinking a lot of water or fluids
- Using throat lozenges
- Getting plenty of rest and sleep
- Gargling with warm salt water at least three times a day
- Keeping off from irritants such as smoke
- Eating frozen foods such as popsicles
- Using a humidifier to moisten the air in your house
- Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease tonsillitis pain and inflammation
- Opting for comforting drinks and foods
Food to Consider
Sore throat is usually associated with burning sensation and discomfort, which can make it difficult to eat and drink. In such a situation, doctors recommend taking certain types of foods and drinks.
When you have a sore throat, foods that are a bit soft and easy to ingest are generally safe to consume. The smooth texture of such foods is helpful in preventing the throat from too much irritation. Also, warm foods and drinks can aid in the relief of a sore throat.
You may want to consider eating the following foods;
- Warm oatmeal, grits, or cooked cereal
- Cooked vegetables
- Cooked warm pasta such as cheese and macaroni
- Plain yogurts and pureed fruits
- Gelatin desserts
- Mashed potatoes
- Vegetable and fruit smoothies
- Cream-based soups
- Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
- Non-acidic juices, including apple juice and grape
Tonsillitis in Adults
Tonsillitis is the most prevalent condition in minors. This is because they are constantly in close contact with other students in school or when playing. As a result, they are highly exposed to a wide range of viruses and bacteria. Adults, on the other hand, are also susceptible to tonsillitis.
Regular contact with other people raises the chances of coming into contact with someone who has the infection. Due to this, traveling through public transportation or participating in activities with a large group of people can increase the risk of contracting tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis symptoms and treatments are the same in adults and children. On the other hand, adults can take a while to heal from a tonsillectomy compared to children.
Complications of Tonsillitis
The complications of tonsillitis are often related to streptococcal bacteria and strep throat. They can include the following;
Chronic tonsillitis: Individuals who get tonsillitis more than seven times annually are said to have chronic tonsillitis. In such cases, medical provides suggest surgery (tonsillectomy) to take out the tonsils. This is particularly in people who snore or have sleeping difficulties during the night. On the other hand, tonsillectomy can be associated with complications such as bleeding, blood clots, and infection of the operation site.
Peritonsillar abscess: A peritonsillar abscess can develop in serious cases of tonsillitis. It’s a collection of pus near the tonsil. Adults and teenagers are more likely than infants to develop peritonsillar abscesses. In such a situation, the physician will recommend surgical drainage of the abscess.
Scarlet fever: This condition may develop from strep throat, resulting in a red rash and a high fever. Scarlet fever affects children the most compared to adults; however, it is uncommon.
Spread of the infection: Streptococcal bacteria may sometimes extend from the throat to the sinuses, middle ear, and other body parts if left untreated. Complications that can result from this infection include glomerulonephritis, sinusitis, and necrotizing fasciitis.
Rheumatic fever: In rare cases, rheumatic fever may develop when strep throat is not addressed. It can also occur if antibiotics are not used to the full course of treatment. Rheumatic fever is more common in children than in adults. It has the potential to cause irreversible heart damage.
Tonsillitis vs. Strep Throat
In certain cases, the bacteria that cause tonsillitis and strep throat are the same, but they are not a similar thing. Tonsillitis may develop from a variety of bacteria or viruses, such as group A streptococcus bacteria. The same bacterium is the one that triggers strep throat.
Since both diseases are infectious, you should try to avoid contact with others if you suspect you have one of them. Those with strep throat are likely to develop the following symptoms in addition to the symptoms of tonsillitis;
- Aches and pains in different areas of the body
- Nausea and vomiting
- A rash
- White pus or secretion around your tonsils
- A few small red patches at the back of your mouth.
The medical provider can diagnose these two conditions using similar tests. On the other hand, strep throat and bacterial tonsillitis have similar treatments.
Tonsillitis and Pregnancy
You can experience benefits such as radiant skin and thick hair while pregnant. Unfortunately, pregnancy does not shield you from bacterial infections such as tonsillitis or strep throat. You may get strep throat when pregnant, as inexcusable as it might sound.
The good news is that not every sore throat indicates the presence of a strep infection. Even so, it's important to be aware of the signs and treatment alternatives for strep throat if you get it while pregnant.
Doctors can prescribe antibiotics to address streptococcal strep throat. Medication must be closely monitored and controlled during pregnancy. This is why drugs are classified as pregnancy risk factors.
Tonsillitis and COVID-19
Tonsillitis and COVID-19 tend to have the same signs and symptoms, including sore throat and fever. However, they are two different conditions altogether. Tonsillitis is characterized by infection and inflammation of the tonsils, normally from viruses or bacteria.
On the other hand, COVID-19 is an infectious condition that develops from a new virus that triggers respiratory disorders. It is similar to the flu and associated with symptoms like coughing, fever, and breathing difficulties in more extreme cases.
You can prevent or avoid COVID-19 by wearing a face mask, constantly washing your hands, and avoiding touching or rubbing your face. Practicing social distance by avoiding physical contact with people who don’t live with you is also an essential preventive measure.
Tonsillitis and Cold
A virus triggers the majority of colds, while strep throat and tonsillitis develop due to bacterial infection. A running nose, coughing, and hoarseness are typical signs of a common cold. With strep throat, these symptoms, particularly coughing, are uncommon.
When you have a sore throat from a cold, the pain and discomfort normally come on gradually and go away after a few days. The pain associated with strep throat can strike at any time. It is more serious and can last for many days.
Colds usually go away on their own and don't need medical attention. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to address strep throat and avoid complications such as rheumatic fever.
Tonsillitis and Mono
The Epstein-Barr virus is a common cause of infectious mononucleosis, also referred to as mono or the kissing disorder. Adolescents and young adults are the most commonly affected.
Mono signs and symptoms include a sore throat, swollen lymph glands, and fever, much like tonsillitis. However, unlike strep throat, which occurs due to a bacterial infection, mono is caused by a virus. As a result, antibiotics are not used to treat it. The doctor will run some tests to see if your sore throat is because of mono.
Tonsillitis is a condition that develops when the tonsils become infected; bacteria or viruses can cause this. Tonsillitis can strike someone at any age, but children are mostly affected. Adults who develop tonsillitis, on the other hand, have had more illnesses in their lives. Therefore, they do not get sick as much as the minors.
Since the best treatment for tonsillitis is determined by the underlying cause, it's essential to get a quick and correct diagnosis. Tonsillectomy, which was once a standard procedure for treating tonsillitis, is now only done when the infection is severe. Doctors can also recommend it if the condition does not respond well to other therapies or causes severe complications.