ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Tonsillitis Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on January 6, 2010

The tonsils are modified lymph glands that sit at either side of the throat at the back of the mouth. They normally act to intercept and destroy bacteria and viruses that are entering the body. If a tonsil is overwhelmed by the germs it is trying to destroy, tonsillitis occurs and the gland becomes enlarged, red, painful and covered in pus. The infection can easily spread to the other tonsil and to glands below the jaw and around the ear. The patient develops a sudden high fever, headache, throat pain, has offensive breath and finds it difficult to swallow or speak. Tonsillitis may occur at any age, but is far more common amongst children than adults.

A number of different bacteria (e.g. Streptococci, Staphylococci, Haemophilus) may cause tonsillitis, and these can only be differentiated by a throat swab. A cotton or synthetic swab is rubbed across the tonsil and then sent to a laboratory for culture. The infecting organism and the correct antibiotic to kill it can then be identified. In some mild to moderate cases, swabs are not necessary, and a broad spectrum antibiotic (e.g. penicillin, erythromycin, tetracycline) can be used by a doctor with reasonable confidence that it will be successful. Even when a swab is taken, antibiotics are usually started while awaiting the result. If tonsillitis is left untreated, the infection may spread to cause an abscess or septicaemia.

Before antibiotics became readily available in the late 1940s, the vast majority of patients with tonsillitis did recover, but often after a very uncomfortable and distressing few weeks. As a result, tonsils were removed to prevent further attacks of the disease. In the last two decades, because attacks of tonsillitis can be easily controlled by safe and effective antibiotics, the rate of tonsillectomy has steadily decreased so that it is now only performed if the patient has recurrent attacks of tonsillitis, excessively large tonsils, or other significant reasons for the procedure to be performed.

Treatment of acute tonsillitis involves bed rest, fluid diet, aspirin or paracetamol, antiseptic mouth washes and antibiotics. It is important to finish the course of antibiotics. Although symptoms may rapidly disappear, the tonsillitis may recur if the antibiotic course is not completed, and the responsible bacteria may no longer respond adequately to the previous antibiotic as it may have developed resistance to it.

Viral infections of the tonsils may also be severe but will not respond to antibiotics. One of the more common causes of viral tonsillitis is glandular fever. This can be diagnosed by a specific blood test. Unfortunately no treatment is available, and pain-killing tablets and gargles must be used to give relief, while prolonged rest allows a cure. Another cause of tonsillitis, which is rare today due to vaccinations, is diphtheria.

Tonsillitis is infectious, and the causative bacteria or viruses may be passed to another person who has close contact with the patient.

Please Note:

  • The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a registered physician or other healthcare professional.

  • The content of this page is intended only to provide a summary and general overview. Do not use this information to disregard medical advice, nor to delay seeking medical advice.

  • Be sure to consult with your doctor for a professional diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)