Tonsillitis Common Causes, Prevention And Treatment Options


Tonsils are two oval-shaped tissue pads located at the back of the throat. Tonsils are inflamed, one on each side. Swollen tonsils, a painful throat, trouble swallowing, and sensitive lymph nodes on the sides of the neck are all indicators of tonsillitis.

Although tonsillitis can sometimes be brought on by bacterial infections, the majority of cases are caused by typical viral infections.

It is critical to have a timely and precise diagnosis since the proper therapy for tonsillitis relies on the underlying reason. Surgery to remove the tonsils, formerly a standard treatment for tonsillitis, is now frequently reserved for cases where the infection is severe, recurring, or results in other catastrophic effects.


The most prevalent cause of tonsillitis is a common virus, however, bacterial infections can also be to blame.

The most typical cause of tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes strep throat. Tonsillitis has been connected to several other bacteria, including strep varieties.

The immune system's first line of defence against viruses and germs that enter your mouth is your tonsils. The tonsils may be particularly susceptible to infection and inflammation as a result of this role. The immune system of the tonsil begins to deteriorate after adolescence, which may be the cause of the uncommon instances of tonsillitis in adults.

How to check if you have Tonsillitis?

If your child exhibits symptoms that might point to tonsillitis, it is critical to receive a proper diagnosis.

If your child exhibits any of the following, contact your doctor:

  • An upset stomach and fever
  • A throat ache that does not go away after 24 to 48 hours
  • Difficulty swallowing or discomfort
  • Extreme sluggishness, weariness, or fussiness

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention:

  • Having trouble breathing
  • Extreme swallowing difficulties
  • Excessive salivation

Risk Factors

The most prevalent cause of tonsillitis is a common virus, however, bacterial infections can also be to blame.

The most typical cause of tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes strep throat. Tonsillitis has been connected to several other bacteria, including strep varieties.

Tonsillitis risk factors include:

Being young. Tonsillitis most usually affects children, whereas bacterial tonsillitis most frequently affects people between the ages of 5 and 15.

Frequent contact with pathogens. Children at school are regularly exposed to viruses or bacteria that might cause tonsillitis due to close interaction with their friends.


The most common age range for tonsillitis in children is between six and mid-teens. The following are tonsillitis symptoms and signs:

  • Red and enlarged tonsils
  • Tonsils with a white or yellow coating or spots
  • Unwell throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or discomfort
  • Fever
  • Between the ages of six and mid-teens, tonsillitis in children is most prevalent.
  • A throaty, raspy, or scratchy voice
  • Poor breath
  • Stomach ache
  • Neck discomfort or stiffness
  • Headache

The following are symptoms of tonsillitis in young children who are unable to communicate their feelings:

  • Drooling brought on by a difficult or unpleasant swallow
  • Refusal of food
  • Strange fussiness


Infectious germs are responsible for both bacterial and viral tonsillitis transmission. The best way of prophylaxis is hence to maintain adequate hygiene. 

Teach your youngster to:

  • Avoid sharing food, drink, water, or utensils, and wash hands thoroughly and regularly, especially after using the restroom and before eating.
  • Change to a new toothbrush after tonsillitis has been diagnosed.

To assist your child in limiting the exposure of others to bacterial or viral infection:

  • Keep your sick youngster at home when possible.
  • When your child may return to school, find out from your doctor.
  • Teach your youngster to sneeze or cough into a tissue or, if required, their elbow.
  • Teach your child how to wash their hand after they have coughed or sneezed


Domestic care

Whether a bacterial or viral infection is the source of your child's tonsillitis, at-home care techniques can help them feel more at ease and heal more quickly.

These methods are the only ones that can be used to treat tonsillitis if a virus is the expected cause. Antibiotics will not be recommended by your doctor. It is likely that your youngster will feel better in seven to ten days.

Here are some at-home care strategies to use when recovering:

Promote rest. Make sure your child receives adequate sleep.

Drink enough liquids. Keep your child's throat wet and hydrated by providing them with lots of water.

Offer comfortable snacks and drinks. A painful throat can be relieved by drinking warm beverages like broth, caffeine-free tea, or warm water with honey, as well as cold foods like ice pops.

Gargle with sea salt. If your child is able to gargle, you can give him or her a saltwater gargle by mixing warm water (8 ounces) and 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 millilitres) of table salt. 

Relieve a sore throat. Have your youngster spit up the solution after giving it a good gargling.

Moisten the air. To avoid dry air that could aggravate a sore throat even more, use a cool-air humidifier. Alternatively, spend some time in a steamy bathroom with your child.

Give out lozenges. Lozenges can be sucked on by children older than 4 to soothe a sore throat.

Prevent irritants. Keep cigarettes and throat-irritating cleaning products out of your home.

Treat fever and discomfort. Ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, other brands) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, other brands) should be discussed with your doctor.

Help reduce fever and manage a sore throat. Low fevers without discomfort do not require treatment.

Children and teenagers should not take aspirin unless a doctor has prescribed it to treat a specific illness. Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition, has been linked to aspirin use by children to treat cold or flu-like illness symptoms.


Your doctor will recommend a course of antibiotics if a bacterial infection is the cause of your tonsillitis. The most frequent antibiotic administered for tonsillitis brought on by group A streptococcus is penicillin, taken orally for 10 days. Your doctor will offer an alternate antibiotic if your child is allergic to penicillin.

Even if the infection has cleared up, your child must complete the entire medication course.

If you do not take all of the prescribed treatments, the infection might get worse or spread to other areas of your body. In particular, not completing the complete antibiotic course might increase your child's risk of rheumatic fever and severe kidney irritability.

If you forget to give your child a dosage, see your doctor or chemist for advice.


Chronic tonsillitis, bacterial tonsillitis that does not respond to antibiotic medication, and tonsillitis that recurs often can all be treated with tonsillectomy surgery. In general, tonsillitis that occurs frequently includes:

  • Seven or more occurrences in the previous year
  • Every year over the past two years has had at least five episodes
  • Three episodes or more every year in the three recent years

A tonsillectomy could also be required if tonsillitis results in issues that are difficult to manage, like:

  • Obstructive snoring
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing, especially after eating meat and other hearty foods
  • A persistent abscess after receiving antimicrobial treatment

A tonsillectomy is frequently carried out as an outpatient procedure unless a child is really young, has a major medical condition, or experiences complications after surgery. Your child must thus be able to leave for home on the day of the surgery. Recovery typically takes seven to fourteen days.

Complications of Tonsillitis

The tonsils may become inflamed or swollen as a result of frequent or persistent (chronic) tonsillitis, which may have the following effects:

  • Breathing problems when sleeping (obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Profound infection that affects the tissue around it (tonsillar cellulitis)
  • Infection that causes a tonsil abscess (an accumulation of pus beneath the tonsil)

If group A streptococcus or another strain of streptococcal bacteria-caused tonsillitis is left untreated or treated poorly with antibiotics, your child is more prone to acquire unusual disorders like the ones listed below:

  • A deadly inflammatory disease called rheumatic fever can harm the heart, joints, neurological system, and skin.
  • Scarlet fever complications, a streptococcal illness characterized by a noticeable rash
  • (Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis) Kidney inflammation
  • Reactive post-streptococcal arthritis, a disorder that makes the joints inflamed


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Page last reviewed: May 16, 2023

Next review due: May 16, 2025

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