Tonsillitis means inflammation of the tonsils which are located at the back of the throat, one on either side.
It is most commonly caused by a virus especially when associated with other symptoms such as cough and cold.
However in some circumstances it can be caused by a bacterial infection, which usually requires treatment with antibiotics.
The symptoms of tonsillitis usually include:
- pain or difficulty when swallowing
- sore throat
- red swollen tonsils with or without pus-filled spots
- swollen neck glands
Very occasionally, a bacterial tonsillitis can into a peritonsillar abscess (known as a quinsy). The symptoms can then include difficulty opening the mouth, drooling, and a change to the voice.
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by a viral infection, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu virus (influenza).
Some cases can also be caused by a bacterial infection, typically a strain of bacteria called group A streptococcus bacteria.
Treatments to reduce the discomfort from tonsillitis include:
- pain and fever reducing medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
- warm salt water gargle, lozenges, or warm liquids
When tonsillitis is caused by a virus, the length of illness depends on which virus is involved. Usually, a complete recovery is made within 7 -10 days week; however, symptoms may last for up to two weeks.
If the tonsillitis is caused by bacteria (classically with pus-filled spots on tonsils), then antibiotics are useful,
Chronic or recurrent cases may be treated with tonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils) as a choice for treatment. It is usually only recommended if:
- you've had several severe episodes of tonsillitis over a long period of time
- repeated episodes are disrupting normal activities