Symptoms and Signs of Tonsillitis

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/19/2021

Doctor's Notes on Tonsillitis

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 virusesInfectious 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 may include:

The tonsils themselves may be enlarged, red, swollen, and may be covered with white patches or pus.

What Is the Treatment for Tonsillitis?

Treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause.

  • Antibiotics are used to treat tonsillitis caused by bacterial infections. Antibiotics are not effective in treating tonsillitis caused by infectious mononucleosis or other viral infections.
  • In all cases of tonsillitis, medications may be used to manage fever and pain.
  • Dietary modifications and consuming soothing foods (both warm and cold liquids can be effective) can help ensure adequate nutrition.
  • Other home remedies include humidifying the air, using throat lozenges (for adults and older children), and gargling with salt water.

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