Tonsils are the soft tissues you can see at the back of your throat, on the left and right sides. They help the body fight infection by filtering and trapping virus and bacteria.
When children grow up, their immune system becomes stronger. As a result, their tonsils will usually become smaller. In most adults, their immune system takes over the function of their tonsils.
Viruses such as the cold or flu virus as well as bacteria such as group A streptococcus can infect the tonsils, causing tonsillitis. As a result, the tonsils may end up getting infected and swollen. This condition is called tonsillitis.
Signs and symptoms
Tonsillitis causes a very painful sore throat. You may also have the following symptoms:
- Fever (above 38°C)
- Feeling sick and tired
- Swollen and painful lymph glands in your neck
- Loss of voice or changes in your voice
- Bad breath.
Don’t be alarmed though as tonsillitis will usually run its course within three to four days and you’ll feel better.
- Have symptoms for more than four days
- Can’t eat or drink because it’s too painful
- Have difficulty breathing,
- See your doctor quickly!
At the clinic
Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms and examine your throat. Then, you will be given painkillers and lozenges to soothe your sore throat.
If there are white spots on your tonsils and you have swollen and tender lymph glands, you are most likely to have bacterial infection. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, which you have to take according to the dosage until it is finished.
The two most effective home remedies for tonsillitis are drinking enough amounts of water and resting.
To shower your tonsils with more TLC, you can do the following:
- Gargle with warm, salty water
- Eat cold foods like ice cream and jelly
- Use a humidifier in your room.
In some children and adults, tonsillitis either keeps returning or lasts longer than a week. This condition is known as chronic tonsillitis. When this happens, a surgery called tonsillectomy may be recommended to remove the tonsils.
Sometimes in rare instances, complications can happen. These include middle ear infection, collection of pus between the tonsils and the throat wall, and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA can be serious as it causes the person to stop breathing during sleep resulting in poor sleep and daytime sleepiness.
Other even more rare complications are:
- Scarlet fever, which causes skin rash
- Rheumatic fever, which causes heart disease, joint pain, rashes and abnormal body movements
- Kidney problems.
As virus and bacteria can cause tonsillitis, the infection can easily spread to others. It is important to prevent the infection from spreading.
So when you have tonsillitis…
- You should see the doctor quickly and take the medication
- Stay at home and keep away from your loved ones until your symptoms have gone
- Always sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw the tissue in the dustbin when you are done
- Wash hands frequently especially before eating, after using the toilet and after coughing or sneezing.
1. Mayo Clinic. Available at www.mayoclinic.org
2. NHS Choices. Available at www.nhs.uk
3. WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com