Do you have fever, sore throat and difficulty swallowing? Read more about tonsillitis infection, an infection of your tonsils, and tonsillitis causes.

About Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is a bacterial or viral infection of the tonsils — the two oval-shaped fleshy pads found at the back of your throat.

Tonsillitis Symptoms and Signs

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty and pain in swallowing
  • White patches appear on tonsils
  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Enlarged lymph nodes found at the jaws and neck
  • Loss of voice
  • Children may complain of abdominal pain

Tonsillitis Causes 

Tonsillitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection of your tonsils. An infection arising from a specific type of bacteria known as group A streptococcus is also commonly known as strep throat.

Tonsillitis Diagnosis

Before treatment, your doctor will check for signs of infection, such as redness and pus from the tonsils. To diagnose your tonsil infection, your doctor may conduct the following tests:

  • A throat swab, where a sterile swab is rubbed over the back of your throat to collect a sample of secretions. The sample is then sent to the laboratory to check for signs of streptococcus.
  • A blood test, known as complete blood cell count (CBC), to identify the cause of the infection. A high white blood cell count or the presence of abnormal cells is an indication of a viral infection.

Tonsillitis Treatment

Tonsillitis infections caused by a virus are typically treated with home remedies. If the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Do finish the full course of antibiotics even if you already feel better, as it may otherwise cause the infection to recur.

Some examples where medication is prescribed:

  • If you test positive for strep throat, you will need to complete at least 24 hours of antibiotic treatment before returning to work or school.
  • If your child who is suffering from tonsillitis has difficulty swallowing, antibiotics may be given through an injection.
  • In some cases, treatment with steroid medications may reduce swollen tonsils.
  • The surgical removal of tonsils through a tonsillectomy may be recommended if other treatments prove ineffective.

A tonsillectomy is rarely needed for adults. However, it may be recommended for a child if he or she has had:

  • More than six serious throat infections in one year.
  • More than four serious throat infections every year over two years.
  • More than two serious throat infections every year over three years.

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