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Tonsillitis – Hello Health Hub

Tonsillitis – Hello Health Hub
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What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a common childhood illness, but teenagers and adults can get it too. Most children and adults get viral tonsillitis.

This type has to run its course, and antibiotics won't help. It usually goes away on its own after a few days. Tonsillitis can feel like a bad cold or flu. The tonsils at the back of your throat will be red and swollen.

Symptoms of tonsillitis

The main tonsillitis symptoms are:

  • A sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse or no voice
  • A high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Feeling sick
  • Earache
  • Feeling tired
  • Inflammation of the tonsils

Sometimes the symptoms can be more severe and include:

  • Swollen painful glands in your neck – feels like a lump on the side of your neck
  • Collection of pus-filled spots on your tonsils at the back of your throat
  • Bad breath

Is tonsillitis contagious and how long does it last for?

Symptoms will usually clear up after 3 or 4 days. Tonsillitis is not contagious itself, but the virus or bacteria infections that cause it are. For example, colds and flu.

You should take this time off work or keep your child at home until feeling better. Throw out any tissues that you use to cough or sneeze into and wash your hands regularly.

How to treat tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis usually has to run it's course. You can help ease the symptoms at home by:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking cool drinks to soothe the swollen tonsils
  • Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen which are available without prescription
  • Gargling with warm salty water - children should not try this

How to gargle with salty water (NOT for children):

  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water – warm water helps salt dissolve.
  2. Gargle with the solution then spit it out – don't swallow it.
  3. Repeat as often as you like.

A pharmacist can help with tonsillitis. They can give advice and suggest treatments to ease a sore throat. Treatments can include:

  • throat lozenges
  • throat sprays
  • antiseptic solutions

You should see your GP if:

  1. you have white pus-filled spots on the tonsils at the back of your throat.
  2. the sore throat is so painful it's difficult to eat or drink.
  3. the symptoms don't go away after 4 days.

The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the cause of your tonsillitis. Most children and adults get viral tonsillitis. This type has to run its course and antibiotics won't help. Your GP may prescribe antibiotics for bacterial tonsillitis.

On rare occasions the doctor might recommend you get your tonsils taken out (tonsillectomy). This is not common, and usually only the case if you have severe tonsillitis that keeps coming back.