Man in bed with thermometer in mouth, holding head, eyes closed

Tonsillitis is when your tonsils become inflamed due to infection. Your tonsils are spherical clumps of lymphatic tissue that are attached to your immune system and help to fight against infection. With tonsillitis, the infection can be either viral or bacterial. When a bacterial infection is the cause of tonsillitis it is generally known as, “strep throat”. Mostly all cases of tonsillitis go away whether treated with medications or not. Tonsillitis usually lasts between 4 to 10 days. If someone repeatedly gets tonsillitis they can get a tonsillectomy. This surgical procedure used to be quite popular and common. However, nowadays, more and more people opt out of having it performed unless they repeatedly get tonsillitis, they have a really bad case of it or their tonsils are in really bad shape.


Tonsillitis is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. There are very rare cases where a fungus or parasite has caused tonsillitis but it does occur. The most common bacterial cause comes from Group A ß-hemolytic streptococcus (which also happens to be the bacterial cause for strep throat. Other bacterial infections that can cause tonsillitis (though comparatively, less often) are: gonorrhea, syphilis, diphtheria, Fusobacterium, pertussis, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Tonsillitis is contagious. It is spread through the air in little droplets that, if swallowed or come into contact with your skin can cause you to become infected.


The symptoms and signs that are most commonly associated with tonsillitis are: ear and neck pain, swollen lymph nodes (in the neck), white spots on tonsils, malaise, chills, tiredness, headache, coughing, fever, hurts to swallow, swollen tonsils and sore throat. Other signs and symptoms that occur with tonsillitis, but less frequently, include: trismus, voice changes, halitosis, furry tongue, vomiting and nausea.

A lot of times the symptoms suggest what sort of infection caused your tonsillitis. For instance, if you have cold-like symptoms (i.e. runny nose, coughing, etc.) then it is most likely a virus that caused your tonsillitis. If you have a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and a fever, then the cause of infection is most likely bacterial.


If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection then antibiotics are what you should use to cure yourself. Amoxicillin and penicillin are the 2 most commonly used antibiotics. If you are allergic to penicillin then you can try macrolides and Cephalosporins. If penicillin treatment simply does not work then there is a bacteria that produces anaerobic and aerobic beta lactamase. Beta lactamase acts as a shield against the streptococcus.

Generally, if the cause is viral, you are going to have to wait it out. Depending on what virus it is will determine the length of time you have tonsillitis. You may take drugs for pain relief and sore throat relief to help make the wait more bearable. If you keep getting tonsillitis you can get a tonsillectomy (i.e. have your tonsils removed). This is a surgery that is becoming less popular then it once was. That is to say, doctors used to cut out your tonsils if you had one case of tonsillitis. Now, they wait until you get it many times, if it lasts for a very long period of time or if there is something wrong with your tonsils.