Tonsillitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Have you ever not be able to eat your favorite meal because of a sore throat and pain when swallowing? Yes ? You just might be suffering from tonsillitis!

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is the medical name given to the swelling or inflammation of the Tonsils .

What are the tonsils?

The Tonsils are the two lymph nodes located on each side of the back of your throat .
To visualize them , stand in front of a mirror with your mouth wide open, they should look like something like this

tonsilitis inflammed tonsils tonsillitis
A person with tonsilitis. Notice the inflammed tonsils at both sides of the throat. Image credit: news-medical

They function as a defense mechanism by helping to prevent infection from entering the body. However, they themselves could get infected sometimes.

Who can have tonsillitis?

Tonsilitis can occur at ANY age however it is commoner in Children, so next time your little baby or little niece refuses to eat, they just might be suffering tonsillitis. Take it easy on them!

What causes tonsillitis?

Most cases of tonsilitis are caused by infection with common cold virus, but bacteria infections may also be a cause. Knowing the cause of the tonsilitis helps in treatment which it is why getting a proper diagnosis is important .

How will I know I have/Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

Some of the symptoms of tonsilitis include
⁃ Sore throat.
⁃ Painful or difficult swallowing.
⁃ Fever
⁃ Hoarse voice or “loss of voice “
Ear pain
⁃ Bad breath
⁃ Tonsils that appear red and swollen
⁃ Tonsils that have white or yellow spots
⁃ A stiff neck, very surprising, I know right!

In younger Children who might not be able to describe how they feel, you might notice
⁃ Drooling due to difficult or painful swallowing
⁃ Refusal to eat
⁃ Unusual Irritability or fussiness.

Prevention of Tonsilitis?

The germs that cause viral and bacterial tonsilitis can spread. Therefore, the best prevention is to practice good hygiene.

  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the toilet and before eating
  • Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses, water bottles or utensils as much as possible.
  • Replace toothbrush after being diagnosed with tonsilitis

Treatment of tonsillitis?

Treatment will depend on the whether the cause of the tonsillitis is bacteria or virus.
If the cause is a virus, Antibiotics Will NOT be required. The following steps can be taken
⁃ Taking in enough water to keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration.
⁃ Taking a salt water gargle i.e mixing a solution of salt and warm water , gargling in the mouth and spitting it out . Do not swallow.
⁃ Taking enough rest .
⁃ Taking cool liquids .

If however, the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be required .
The Antibiotics should be taken for its full course as prescribed by the Doctor and not just stopping when the symptoms disappear. This is to prevent the infection worsening and spreading to other parts of the body.

You must be wondering, Surgery ? For a mere sore throat? Yes!
Surgery to remove tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be used to treat frequently recurring tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis or bacterial tonsillitis that doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment.

Frequent tonsillitis is generally defined as:
⁃ More than seven episodes in one year
⁃ More than four to five episodes a year in each of the preceding two years
⁃ More than three episodes a year in each of the preceding three years

A tonsillectomy may also be performed if tonsillitis results in difficult-to-manage complications, such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea which is when the enlarged tonsils prevent enough air from getting into your airways.
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Swallowing difficulty, especially meats and other
  • An abscess that doesn’t improve with antibiotic treatment

However, this step is usually taken after careful and holistic review by a Doctor.
The procedure MUST also be carried out by an ENT surgeon.

Feel free to ask any questions below.


  • Enemuo Henry Idinmachukwu attended the college of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, in Ituku Ozalla, Enugu State

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