What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become infected.  Tonsils are the lymph nodes at each side of the back of the throat and they act as a kind of defense mechanism to prevent infection.

Tonsillitis is an infection that can happen at any age but it is more common in children.  It can be caused by a bacteria or another common virus and it is contagious. There can be serious complications if it is not treated.

What are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

There are many symptoms of tonsillitis and signs can include any of them. Difficulty swallowing, sore throat, and a scratchy sounding voice are fairly common signs of tonsillitis. Fever and chills, headaches, and earaches are also possible signs.

If lymph nodes are swollen, there can be tenderness in the jaw or neck area.  Someone with tonsillitis can also have a stiff neck, stomachaches, or bad breath.  The tonsils can be red and swollen or they may have yellow or white spots on them.  Younger children may not want to eat or may drool and be excessively irritable.

Tonsillitis Causes

Many viruses have been found to contribute either primarily or secondarily to tonsillitis in humans. While a viral infection remains the most frequent method of entry, bacterial infections have almost as many occurrences.

Streptococcus pyogenes, which is also known as group A streptococcus, is the most common bacterium which contributes to the inflammation of the tonsils which has been problematic to so many. When it occurs this way then this can be known as strep throat, and that is a common illness that many have dealt with at least once in their lifetime.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, corynebacterium diphtheriae, and haemophilus influenzae are three other bacteria which have also been seen as contributing factors, albeit at a lesser rate of occurrence than with group A streptococcus. It is spread from human to human by breathing in common air, such as through sneezing and similar vectors.

How is Tonsillitis Treated?

If tonsillitis is mild, treatment may not be required.  Viruses and colds can cause tonsillitis and the best thing to do is to rest and wait. If tonsillitis is severe, antibiotics may be prescribed, especially if it is a bacterial infection.

Surgery is usually a last resort for when someone has recurring cases of tonsillitis or in cases where other treatment is not working.

Tonsillitis Prevention

Penicillin can help to limit the length of infection when strep throat is a related issue. This will help to limit the length of time that it can be spread in the airborne fashion as mentioned in the causes section above.

It is also important for everyone to use general common sense measures of hygiene correctness so that there will be less of a chance for tonsillitis to be spread. This includes common protection methods such as avoiding the sharing of glasses, utensils and water bottles.

Proper hand washing should always be taken into consideration, and things like covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing can help more than it may seem.

Disposable wipes and hand sanitizers are great tools in the war against tonsil enemies. When all of these things are done holistically, there should be less of a concern about the spread.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017