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Tonsillitis caused by a virus typically lasts 4 to 10 days. A bacterial infection lasts slightly longer. If symptoms include sore throat, fever above 101°F (38.3°C), and swollen lymph nodes, the infection might be caused by strep bacteria. Strep throat, which must be diagnosed by a doctor, requires antibiotic treatment.
In some cases, tonsillitis can become chronic. Surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be recommended for you or your child based on past health and results of physical exams.
Complications of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis caused by strep bacteria that is not treated with antibiotics may result in complications, such as ear and sinus infections or pockets of infection outside the tonsils (peritonsillar abscess). More serious complications, such as rheumatic fever, may also occur.
Recurrent and ongoing (chronic) tonsillitis may obstruct the upper airway and cause problems, such as snoring, nasal congestion, and mouth breathing. Sometimes chronic tonsillitis can lead to more severe conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea and heart and lung problems. But most children who have sleep apnea and enlarged tonsils do not have a history of tonsillitis.
What Increases Your Risk
Close contact with an infected person is the main risk factor for tonsillitis. Droplets of disease-causing agents (pathogens) pass through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. You may then become infected after breathing in these droplets. Infection can also occur if pathogens get on the skin or on objects that come in contact with the mouth, nose, eyes, or other mucous membranes.
Nasal obstruction causes you to breathe through your mouth, which increases the risk of tonsillitis.
Although there is no proof that exposure to cigarette smoke can cause tonsillitis, children who live with a smoker have a higher incidence of tonsillectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils.1
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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