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Could tonsilitis be causing that sore throat?

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 26 October 2021

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Tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses that are located at the back of the throat. They are a part of the lymphatic system and therefore, they help fight infections. Sometimes, the tonsils get infected and inflamed resulting in tonsilitis. It is characterized by swelling of the tonsils and a sore throat. Tonsillitis usually occurs due to a viral or bacterial infection and gets better on its own within 3 to 4 days but sometimes, it may require medical attention.

What are the signs of tonsillitis?

The symptoms of tonsilitis are similar to that of the common cold and flu:

  • Swollen or painful tonsils
  • Pain and difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Dry cough
  • Headache 
  • Pain in the ears and neck
  • Fatigue.

The severe symptoms of tonsilitis include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • High-grade fever
  • Swollen and painful glands in the neck 
  • Pus formation in the tonsils.

People experiencing severe symptoms of tonsillitis should consult their doctor immediately as it can result in complications such as scarlet fever (red rashes and fever), peritonsillar abscess (collection of pus around the tonsils), and rheumatic fever (autoimmune disease). 

What causes tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis either occurs due to infection by viruses or bacteria. Up to 70% of the cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses that cause infections such as cold or flu. The rest of the cases are caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria (a strain of bacteria) and hence, it is also known as strep throat. 

Since viruses and bacteria are highly contagious, tonsillitis can spread by sharing utensils, food or drinks with the infected person. Coming in close contact, touching a contaminated surface or inhaling tiny particles from the sneeze or cough of the infected person can also result in tonsillitis. 

How is tonsillitis treated?

The treatment of tonsilitis depends on the underlying cause. In the case of viral or bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines or antibiotics to treat the cause. Several home remedies can also help speed up the recovery process of tonsilitis while easing the pain and relieving symptoms. The home remedies include:

  • Gargling with warm, salted water at least 3 times a day.
  • Drinking warm beverages such as tea, coffee, soups, broths or other herbal concoctions with ginger, lemon, liquorice and holy basil. 
  • Getting adequate sleep of at least 7 to 8 hours.
  • Avoiding smoking and staying away from second-hand smoke.
  • Avoiding the consumption of spicy and oily foods as they can irritate the throat and can be difficult to swallow.
  • Consuming lozenges to relieve itchiness and pain in the throat.
  • Using a humidifier to increase moisture in the room to relieve irritation in the throat.

If the infection does not resolve in a week, worsens with time or hinders breathing, the doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils).

Can tonsillitis be prevented?

Tonsillitis can happen to anyone. However, measures that may help reduce the risk of developing tonsillitis include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water frequently, especially before eating or cooking meals. 
  • Not touching the nose and mouth often. 
  • Avoiding sharing of food, drinks, or utensils with infected people.
  • Replacing the toothbrush of the infected person regularly. 

Conclusion

Though the disease is not life-threatening, tonsilitis may cause pain and discomfort in the throat. People with tonsilitis must follow proper respiratory and hand hygiene measures such as covering the mouth with hand or tissue while coughing and washing hands often with soap and water. One must consult a doctor in case of frequent episodes of tonsillitis, as chronic tonsillitis can lead to severe complications such as sleep apnea (difficulty in breathing while sleeping), peritonsillar abscess, and rheumatic fever.

Talk to an ENT specialist if you experience any symptoms of tonsilitis.

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