Tonsillitis: The Causes, Symptoms & Treatments


The term tonsillitis refers to a viral or bacterial infection which causes inflammation of the tonsils.

 Causes of tonsillitis

The most common cause of tonsillitis is a viral infection such as; adenovirus, coronavirus, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and rhinovirus. Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, HIV and bacterial infections can also cause tonsillitis; however, these aren’t as common as viral infections.

 Symptoms of tonsillitis

–          Arguably the most common symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat. This often starts a few days before other symptoms become apparent.

–          Similarly, suffers often find it difficult or painful to swallow during the initial stages of tonsillitis. Usually, the more severe the infection, the more difficult a sufferer finds it to swallow.

–          Initially, the virus or infection causes the tonsils to become red and swollen.

–          White, puss filled spots often develop on the tonsils as the virus develops. These spots may be small and dotted over the tonsils or large and spread across the tonsils and thread depending upon the severity of the illness.

–          Sufferers often develop a high temperature or a fever during tonsillitis.

–          Feeling tired and generally unwell is common during the onset of the illness. However, as you begin to recover, these feelings should diminish. Suffers are generally advised to take tonics and vitamins if they are feeling tired or generally unwell.

Other, less common symptoms of tonsillitis include:

–          Pain in or around the ears

–          Pain in or around the neck


–          Hallucinations

–          Headaches

–          Chills and shivering

–          Swollen glands in the neck

–          Nausea and vomiting

–          Stomach ache

–          Difficulty opening your mouth

–          Bad breath

–          Voice changes


In order to reduce the discomfort of tonsillitis, pain killers, anti-inflammatories and fever reducing medications can be used. Similarly, sore throat relief such as lozenges, salt water and iced drinks can be used to reduce discomfort.

If the tonsillitis is caused by group A streptococcus, an ent specialist will often prescribe a course of antibiotics with penicillin or amoxicillin as a way to treat the infection. In the instance that penicillin can’t be used, cephalosporins and macrolides can be introduced as a replacement to treat the illness. Similarly, as some patients may be allergic to penicillin, a macrolide may be used as an alternative.

In 40% of tonsillitis cases, sufferers find that their symptoms have resolved within 3 days. Alternatively, 85% of patients find that it takes up to 1 week for their symptoms to diminish.


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