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Tonsillitis Explained: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Dr. Riaz Chaudhary

2 min read

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Whenever winter arrives, the infections of upper and the lower respiratory system become very common. Old people and the children face the worst of it all as they have low immunity and are thus more susceptible to the bacteria and viruses which start to grow at a rapid pace in the tightly closed off, warm indoor spaces. Tonsillitis which is the inflammation of, usually, the palatine tonsils, is one of the most common diseases of winter. People can also get infected in summers but winter is the peak season.

This condition causes the platine tonsils to get infected by various viruses or bacteria while fighting them as part of the initial immune system defense. Since tonsils are most active during earlier years, tonsillitis usually affects children between the ages of 3-15, though adults might also contract the infection in some cases. Cases can range from mild-a little worse than a sore throat-to severe.

It is said that in order to fight off an epidemic, awareness is the key as awareness is the thing that motivates people to seek the right causes and treatments for the illnesses that they are suffering from. Keeping up with this saying, we will be explaining everything you need to know about this infectious condition from symptoms to treatment.

Table of Contents


Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some very simple ways suggested by Cleveland Clinic to help you avoid Tonsillitis:

  • Don’t share food, drinks with someone who is already sick.
  • Wash your hands regularly especially after touching your nose or mouth.
  • Replace your toothbrush regularly.

Types of Tonsillitis

According to the doctors, infection type and duration, it is classified into 3 types:

  • Acute: 3-4 day symptom-lasting period, which may extend up to 2 weeks.
  • Recurrent: Multiple acute tonsillitis infections in a year or over 3 years.
  • Chronic: Symptoms are more severe and long lasting than acute tonsillitis and may also include bad breath, tender lymph nodes in the neck and chronic sore throat.

Common Causes

Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by viral infections, usually the ‘cold’ or Influenza virus. Other viruses that may infect the tonsils include the Epstein-Barr virus-which is also responsible for glandular fever-the Rubeola or measles virus, Enteroviruses and the Cytomegalovirus. If infected by the Epstein-Barr virus for the first time, the resultant tonsillitis is contagious.

Moreover, around 15-30% cases of tonsillitis are caused by bacteria, with the common culprit being the strep throat-causing bacterium, A Beta-hemolytic Streptococcus (GABHS). In rare cases, infection might be caused by fungi or parasites, particularly in people with weakened immune systems. Bacterial tonsillitis is highly contagious.

Like a cold or flu, tonsillitis is usually spread by coming into close contact with an infected person; either breathing in infectious cough or sneeze droplets or touching the eyes, nose or mouth with droplet infected objects or skin.


Symptoms of a common cold lasting for more than 2 days, along with inflammation (swelling and redness) of the tonsils might possibly be an indicator of tonsillitis. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Tenderness of the jaw and neck
  • Bad breath
  • Fever and chills
  • Tiredness and Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • White/yellow pus spotted tonsils
  • Mouth breathing and/or snoring hoarse or no voice
  • Temperature higher than 38 C.
  • Earache
  • Irritability, poor appetite, or excessive drooling in very young children

Sneezing, coughing and a runny and stuffy nose along with any or all of the above symptoms might indicate viral tonsillitis whereas as a sore throat, severe fever and swollen lymph nodes minus common cold symptoms signal bacterial tonsillitis.


While tonsillitis is self-cured in 7-10 days, bacteria-caused tonsillitis requires treatment via a full course prescription of anti-biotics in order to avoid recurrence and reduce the chances of developing rheumatic fever or kidney disease.

Viral cases will heal on their own with proper rest-as antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.   However, symptom relief may be provided by:

  • Regular consumption of fluid
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Consuming Lozenges.
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen* (in case of severe pain and high fever)
  • Corticosteroids (for difficulty in breathing and swallowing)

Surgical removal of tonsils (tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy), once common procedures, are now only reserved for extreme cases.

*Note that giving ibuprofen to younger children is highly discouraged.

As mentioned earlier, this article is written in the spirit of awareness. It in no manner is enough to serve as a guide for treatment and care for someone who is suffering from tonsillitis. Even though it is rarely a cause for concern and usually goes away on its own but it is still preferable to consult with a doctor about the right type of care which is required for fast recovery.

However, if you suspect a severe infection, book an appointment with a top ENT Specialist in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi through oladoc.com at your earliest. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your tonsil troubles.


Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Riaz Chaudhary
Dr. Riaz Chaudhary - Author Dr. M Riaz Chaudhary is a leading ENT specialist and surgeon based in Lahore. He's deep expertise in sinus surgery, reshaping of the nose, nose allergy, ear discharge, nasal allergy, and others. You can book an appointment with him through oladoc.
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