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Symptoms and Signs of Tonsillitis

Doctor's Notes on Tonsillitis Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Home Remedies

Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the tonsils in the back of the throat. Acute tonsillitis refers to a short-term illness and is caused by infections with a number of different bacteria or viruses. Infectious mononucleosis (“mono”) and strep throat are two examples of acute tonsillitis. Chronic, or long-term, tonsillitis is a persistent infection of the tonsils that can eventually lead to stone formation within the tonsils.

Symptoms of tonsillitis include a painful sore throat that can cause pain with swallowing or difficulty swallowing. Associated signs and symptoms can include fever, nasal congestion, runny nose, bad breath, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, loss of voice or hoarseness, and headache. The tonsils themselves may be enlarged, red, swollen, and may be covered with white patches or pus.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Tonsillitis Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Home Remedies Symptoms

Symptoms of tonsillitis may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty and/or pain with swallowing
  • Fever
  • Difficulty feeding (in babies)
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Runny nose
  • Redness and swelling of the tonsils
  • Tenderness in the glands of the neck (swollen lymph glands)
  • White patches or streaks on the tonsils (exudate)
  • Bad breath
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Rash
  • Ear pain (caused by nerves that go to the back of the throat and also go to the ear)

Tonsillitis Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Home Remedies Causes

Tonsillitis is caused by either a viral or bacterial infection of the tonsils. Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses. There are many different viruses that can cause tonsillitis, including

Bacterial tonsillitis is most often caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, the organism that causes strep throat.

Top Problems in Your Mouth Slideshow

Top Problems in Your Mouth Slideshow

Also called fever blisters, you don't get cold sores from fevers or colds but they can be triggered by them. The virus that causes cold sores is usually passed via a kiss, shared utensils, or other close contact. Over-the-counter creams and ointments may help discomfort and speed healing. Frequent sores may require a prescription. Cold sores are a top mouth problem. Other problems include canker sores, TMJ, bad breath, and mouth cancer.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.