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Understanding Tonsillitis: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Diagnosis

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What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a health condition that causes inflammation of your tonsils. Tonsils are node-like structures that form a significant part of the immune system. There are two tonsils in your body, each on either side of the throat. The primary function of these lymph nodes is to filter germs that enter your body through the nose and mouth and prevent infection.

What are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis symptoms can often feel like a bad flu or cold. Here are the common symptoms of tonsillitis:

  • A sore or itchy throat
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Coughing
  • High temperature or tonsillitis fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius
  • Pain in your ears
  • Swollen or reddish tonsils
  • Yellow or white patches on your tonsils
  • Feeling sick and tired

In some cases, the tonsillitis symptoms can be severe, including:

  • Tonsillitis-induced nausea and vomiting
  • Furry tongue
  • Bad breath related to tonsillitis

These symptoms of tonsillitis need immediate medical attention. So, if one is experiencing serious tonsillitis symptoms, get in touch with your doctor without fail. Always remember that symptoms of tonsillitis in adults and kids are more or less the same. So, when you experience the early symptoms of tonsillitis, ensure taking necessary precautions and seek medical advice as and when needed.

What are the First Signs of Tonsillitis?

The first signs of tonsillitis are a sore throat and painful swallowing. If one is experiencing these tonsillitis symptoms, start taking measures to keep the infection under control.

What are the Causes of Tonsillitis?

Tonsils are your body's first line of defence. These protect against possible infections. Hence, they can get easily infected and develop tonsillitis. The top tonsillitis causes include viral infections. However, bacterial infections can also be the reason in some cases of tonsillitis. Here is a rundown of the prevalent tonsillitis causes:

  • Viral tonsillitis: In almost 70% of cases, the viruses that cause the flu and common cold also lead to tonsillitis infection. The symptoms of virus-induced tonsillitis are milder than bacterial ones. 
  • Bacterial tonsillitis: Also known as strep throat, Streptococcus, a type of bacteria, is one of the other causes of tonsillitis, hence, the name. The symptoms of bacterium-borne tonsillitis are more severe than those of viral tonsillitis.

How Does Tonsillitis Spread?

While tonsillitis does not spread on its own, the bacteria and viruses that cause tonsillitis are highly communicable. Here is how tonsillitis spreads from one person to another:

  • Sharing drinks and foods with a person affected with tonsillitis infection
  • Sharing utensils
  • Kissing a person with tonsillitis
  • Being around a tonsillitis-infected person and inhaling airborne particles when they cough or sneeze
  • Touching or using a contaminated object or surface and then touching your mouth or nose

What are the Risk Factors of Tonsillitis?

The following are the risk factors of tonsillitis:

  • Age: Children between 5 and 15 are more susceptible to bacteria that cause tonsillitis. However, adults and teen can also get infected by tonsillitis.
  • Exposure level to germs: People who frequently interact with tonsil-infected individuals or go to crowded places are frequently exposed to germs that lead to tonsillitis.

What are the Complications of Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis can sometimes lead to complications, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (disrupted breathing patterns during sleep)
  • Tonsil stones (stone-like lumps on your tonsils)
  • Peritonsillar abscess (accumulation of pus at the back of a tonsil)
  • Tonsillar cellulitis (tonsillitis that spreads into the tissues surrounding your tonsil)

Moreover, bacterial tonsillitis, if left untreated, can lead to the following complications:

  • Scarlet fever (a bacteria-induced condition)
  • Rheumatic fever (an inflammatory condition)
  • Poststreptococcal reactive arthritis (swollen and painful joints that accompany ten days after getting a strep throat)
  • Kidney inflammation related to tonsillitis

How do Doctors Diagnose Tonsillitis?

For tonsillitis diagnosis, your doctor is likely to do the following things:

  • Physical examination: If your doctor suspects that you have developed tonsillitis, they will examine your mouth and throat for swelling and redness. They will check your nose and ears for signs of tonsillitis, if any. Your doctor will touch and feel your neck to determine if your lymph nodes are tender or inflamed due to tonsillitis.
  • Symptom assessment: They will ask you about the symptoms you have been experiencing, such as cold and cough, fever, rash, runny nose, etc., to assess the severity of your tonsillitis and rule out other conditions.

What Tests are Used to Diagnose Tonsillitis?

Here is a list of tonsillitis diagnosis tests:

  • Throat swab: For this tonsillitis test, your doctor will take a sterile swab and rub it on the back of your throat to collect a sample. They will then test the secretion sample in a lab for bacteria to confirm tonsillitis.
  • Complete Blood Cell Count (CBC): This blood test will help you get a complete profile of your blood parameters and determine the cause(s) of tonsillitis and its severity.

How is Tonsillitis Treated?

Although the symptoms of bacterial tonsillitis and viral tonsillitis are almost the same, their treatments are likely to differ. The following are the most common tonsillitis treatment options:

  • Antibiotics: Your doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics as tonsillitis medication, including clindamycin, penicillin, or cephalosporin, if you have bacterial tonsillitis.
  • Painkillers: Pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often prescribed to help relieve painful throats in tonsillitis.
  • Tonsillectomy (Tonsil removal):  If your tonsillitis is recurring or has become chronic, your doctor may suggest a tonsil removal surgery.
  • Home remedies: Apart from the prescription, you can use the following home remedies to relieve the symptoms of tonsillitis
    • Drink warm liquids, like clear soups, apple cider or tea
    • Gargle with warm water with a pinch of salt
    • Have throat lozenges.

Can Tonsillitis be Prevented?

Tonsillitis is not fully preventable. However, you can minimise the susceptibility to getting tonsillitis infection by keeping good hygiene habits in place. Follow the below pointers and keep tonsillitis at bay:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, mainly before eating or touching your mouth or nose, to keep tonsillitis causes away.
  • Make sure to avoid sharing food and drinks with a person who has tonsillitis.
  • Change your toothbrush every time you become ill or every two to three months.

What Can I Expect If I Have Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is usually not a severe or long-lasting health condition. Most cases of tonsillitis caused by a virus heal within a few days of rest and having warm fluids. Antibiotics may take around ten days to work but cure bacterial tonsillitis effectively.

How Long Does Tonsillitis Last?

Usually, the symptoms of tonsillitis go away within a couple of days. However, if you have severe tonsillitis symptoms or they do not heal, visit your doctor right away.

What is the Fastest Way to Cure Tonsils?

The quickest way to alleviate symptoms of tonsillitis is to use home remedies, such as gargling salt water, drinking warm soups or tea, taking throat lozenges, or taking Over-The-Counter (OTC) painkillers like acetaminophen.

Will Tonsillitis Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, tonsillitis symptoms relieve on their own within a week.

What Does Tonsillitis Look Like?

When you have tonsillitis, your tonsils appear red and swollen, and they may have whitish or yellow spots.

Tonsillitis vs. Strep: What’s the Difference?

Although tonsillitis and strep throat are often used interchangeably, they are different. While tonsillitis can be due to a viral or bacterial infection, strep throat or bacterial tonsillitis occurs when a specific strain of bacteria is behind your symptoms. Also, even if you do not have your tonsils, you can still have a strep infection.

Conclusion

Tonsillitis is a common health condition. It can affect both adults and children. In most cases, tonsillitis does not require any treatment and goes away in a couple of days. To get relief from the tonsillitis symptoms, you can use over-the-counter tonsillitis treatments and home remedies. If you have severe tonsillitis symptoms, pay a visit to your doctor as soon as possible. At Metropolis Healthcare, we offer a range of blood and fluid tests to help you determine your health parameters. Book a home collection now and get yourself tested by experts. 

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