Tonsillitis refers to a viral or bacterial infection in the tonsils, large glands located at the back of your throat. While your tonsils produce antibodies and trap invaders before they infect your body, they are also prone to infection.
Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by the bacteria that causes strep throat. Although less common, you can also get tonsillitis after exposure to these viruses:
While signs and symptoms vary from one patient to the next, nearly every patient with tonsillitis will experience tonsil swelling and inflammation. Other symptoms, which may or may not be present, include:
Children sometimes also experience a stomach ache accompanied by nausea and vomiting when they have tonsillitis.
Before your doctor can recommend a course of treatment, he or she must first identify the underlying cause of your infection. To determine the cause of the infection, a doctor or nurse swabs your throat and sends the specimen to the lab for analysis. If a bacterial infection is present, you'll start taking antibiotics. If a virus is responsible for the infection, antibiotics won’t help. In these cases, you can help your body fight the infection by getting plenty of rest, increasing your fluid intake, and using a humidifier.
Whether you have viral or bacterial tonsillitis, over-the-counter medications can help you manage symptoms while you heal. Pain relievers and throat lozenges are recommended.
Untreated tonsillitis can result in severe swelling that blocks your airway. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect you (or your child) may have tonsillitis.
Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) specialize the diagnosis and treatment of tonsillitis. In many cases, your family medicine or primary care doctor may diagnose tonsillitis and refer you to an Otolaryngologist for further evaluation and treatment. Because these specialists have extensive experience in both routine and complex or recurring cases, they are often the best choice for treatment.