Tonsillitis is a common infection that almost every child or adult will get at least once. However, if the symptoms of tonsillitis last more than ten days or you develop swollen tonsils multiple times in a year, this could indicate a problem that needs further intervention to relieve your suffering. 

If you are fed up with suffering from this common yet incredibly uncomfortable bacterial infection and you want to know more about the causes of tonsillitis, you have come to the right place for guidance. Read on to discover the causes of tonsillitis that you need to know, as well as the most effective treatments for this pesky infection.

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsils and adenoids work hard to protect the body from infection. They do this by sampling bacteria and viruses that enter the nose or mouth. However, they can sometimes become infected, with the most common issue being tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that are found at the back of the throat. It often occurs in young children, although adolescents and adults can also get it. Overall, there are three different types of tonsillitis, which are as follows:

1. Acute Tonsillitis

Symptoms usually last three or four days, but they can last up to two weeks.

2. Recurrent Tonsillitis

This is when you suffer from tonsillitis several times a year.

3. Chronic Tonsillitis

This is a long-term and consistent tonsil infection and the most severe type.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

Generally, the condition can feel like a bad cold or the flu. Still, there are a few distinct symptoms of tonsillitis to look out for. These are:

  • A sore throat 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • A high temperature 
  • A cough or sneeze 
  • A headache 
  • Feeling nauseous 
  • Earache 
  • Feeling tired 
  • Swollen tonsils

In severe cases of tonsillitis, you may experience swollen, painful glands on your neck, have white, pus-filled spots on your tonsils and have bad breath. Furthermore, in very rare incidents, tonsillitis can lead to rheumatic fever – an inflammatory illness that can cause painful joints and heart issues if left untreated.

If you have any of the above symptoms and don’t feel well enough to visit your doctor, tapGP is an online GP service that you can access from anywhere. You can get medical advice from an NHS-trained doctor and be prescribed any necessary medication over the phone or via video without having to see a doctor in person.

What Are the Main Causes of Tonsillitis?

Infection of the tonsils can be caused by viruses or bacteria such as:

1. Adenoviruses

These are the viruses responsible for the common cold, sore throats and bronchitis.

2. Epstein-Barr Virus

This causes mononucleosis, also known as the “kissing disease”, and is spread through infected saliva.

3. Streptococcus Bacteria

This bacteria can cause tonsillitis and also strep throat. Around 15-30% of all cases of tonsillitis are caused by bacteria.

4. Measles Virus (Rubeola)

This is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system. You can become infected with this virus through saliva and mucus.

Who Is Most at Risk of Tonsillitis?

There are several factors that can put you at a greater risk of tonsillitis. These are:

  • Your age. Children between the ages of 5-15 are more likely to get tonsillitis caused by a bacterial infection
  • Germ exposure. Children, and adults who spend a lot of time with children, such as teachers and nursery staff, are more likely to get tonsillitis due to increased germ exposure.
  • Weakened immune systems. If you have a compromised immune system, you are more susceptible to the viruses and bacteria that cause tonsillitis.

How to Treat Tonsillitis

When it comes to tonsillitis treatment, there are several highly effective over-the-counter remedies that you can try, including:

  • Throat numbing sprays 
  • Lozenges
  • Antiseptic solutions
  • Pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol 

If your bout of tonsillitis is caused by bacteria such as strep, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics to help fight infection and relieve your symptoms. 

For those that suffer from recurrent or chronic tonsillitis that does not respond well to conventional treatments, a doctor may recommend the surgical removal of the tonsils – a common procedure known as a tonsillectomy.

So... When should I see my doctor?

If you think you have been suffering from any of these symptoms, it is always a good idea to bring this up with your general practitioner. They will be able to carry out a full medical history and examination to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Tonsillitis is a common condition that is easy treatable with the correct treatment plan. If you work with live or work with children, you are more at risk of getting tonsillitis. Please check your symptoms and visit your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.