What is tonsillitis? Its types, symptoms and treatment

When the two oval-shaped masses of tissue on either side of the back of the throat become inflamed, it is called tonsillitis. Symptoms and signs of this condition include swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing, sore throat among others. To carry out an adequate treatment it is necessary to first know the causes, so it is important to have an accurate diagnosis. Especially since there are different types of infections related to the tonsils that are not treated in the same way.

Most of the time, the cause of tonsillitis is a condition with a frequent virus. However, bacterial infections can also generate this oral problem, the most common is the Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus). Other bacterial conditions such as pharyngitis can also cause inflammation in the tonsils.

This is because the organs in question are the body's first line of defense against viruses and bacteria that enter the mouth. And this function makes the tonsils especially vulnerable to harmful microorganisms. However, their function as protectors of the body decreases when puberty is entered, this may be the reason that there are few cases of this disease in adults.

Symptoms of tonsillitis

Tonsillitis disease most often affects children among the 2 to 6 years and moderately to adolescents. Among the most well-known symptoms and signs of the disease, the following can be mentioned:

  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • White or yellow patches or coatings on the tonsils
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Tender and enlarged glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • Throat pain
  • Fever
  • Raspy, muffled, or hoarse voice
  • Stomach ache
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Bad breath

In very young children who are not able to describe what they are experiencing, some of the symptoms that can be seen are the following:

  • Not wanting to eat
  • Drooling due to difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Unusual agitation

When to go to a doctor?

The time to consult the doctor will be when the child or adolescent presents the following symptoms, it is important to obtain an exact diagnosis.

Call the doctor when the affected person has: sore throat with fever that does not go away after 24 or 48 hours. When you have difficulty swallowing along with weakness and fatigue.

Seek immediate medical attention if the affected person has: difficulty in breathing or extreme difficulty in swallowing, excessive drooling.

Types of tonsillitis

This disease is caused directly by the oral bacterial flora and indirectly by various infections of the body. According to this, there are several types of tonsillitis that meet the symptoms described above and can be more or less serious.

Viral tonsillitis

It is the most common type whose symptoms are usually milder. Commonly makes the throat look very red, sometimes with vesicles that may contain mucus, and on many occasions with fever and cough. Being viral, antibiotic treatments are not required, since the evolution is benign and can be cured within a few days without major complications. These types of infections are common in young children as young as 3 years old.

Bacterial tonsillitis

Represents only the 30% of all throat related infections. This type of tonsillitis is rare in children under 3 years of age. It is characterized by high fever, intense sore throat, bad breath and the famous "Pus plaques" on the tonsils. In this case, the use of an antibiotic is necessary, which can last up to 10 days.

Acute tonsillitis

This term usually refers to inflammation of the palatine tonsils that sometimes extends to the adenoids. The cause of this type of infection is the herpes virus simple, the Epstein Barr virus, or Cytomegalovirus, among others. Among the most common complications of acute tonsillitis is the peritonsillar abscess, which manifests itself with: sialorrhea, bad breath, severe sore throat and difficulty opening the mouth.

Strep throat

It represents only a small portion of the cases of conditions in the throat and it is a bacterial infection. If it is not treated in time it can trigger complications such as inflammation in the kidneys and rheumatic fever which then causes joint pain. Although it is a disease that usually affects children, it can also attack people of any age. Symptoms include red and swollen tonsils with traces of pus, swollen glands in the neck, skin rash, and fever.


The treatment of tonsillitis will depend on the state of severity in which the infection is found, thus, there are several ways to give relief to the disease.

Home care

Regardless if the inflammation in the tonsils is caused by a virus or bacteria, home care strategies can make the patient feel more comfortable and promote better recovery. In fact, when the disease is suspected to have been caused by a virus, these measures are the only alternative.

  • Encourage rest

It is necessary for the child or adult to sleep a lot, so that the body takes charge of doing what is necessary in the early recovery.

  • Provide necessary fluids

It is necessary for the patient to drink a lot of water so that throat stays moist and thus avoid dehydration.

  • Prepare a gargle with salted water

To relieve a sore throat, you can prepare a glass of warm water with 1/2 tablespoon of table salt. Gargle should be done and then spit out the mixture.


If tonsillitis that is caused by bacteria, the doctor will recommend a series of antibiotics. The most common antibiotic treatment is oral penicillin for 10 days.


To treat tonsillitis, frequent, chronic or bacterial tonsillitis that does not respond to antibiotic treatment, it is necessary to resort to surgery to remove the tonsils. This decision is left to a specialist.

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