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Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that affects millions of individuals each year. Although uncomfortable and unpleasant, the condition is rarely a major health concern.

What is tonsillitis? The tonsils are the first line of defence of the human immune system.

Tonsils are situated at the back of the throat. They are collections of lymphoid tissue, which forms part of the immune system. In total, people have four sets of tonsils, but, usually, when they are referred to as "the tonsils," it means the palatine tonsils. The palatine tonsils are the only tonsils that are visible under normal circumstances. Tonsils are at their largest size around the time of puberty and, from that point on, they slowly atrophy (shrink). The tonsils are the body's first line of defense against inhaled bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that cause disease.

Symptoms of tonsillitis Tonsillitis can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection, and typically resolves within a couple of days.

The most common symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • Sore throat and pain when swallowing

red and swollen tonsils with pus-filled


  • high temperature

  • headache

  • difficulty swallowing

  • pain in the ears and/or neck

  • tiredness

difficulty sleeping

  • coughing

  • chills

  • swollen lymph glands

Less common symptoms can include:

  • fatigue

  • stomach pain and vomiting

  • nausea

  • furry tongue

  • changes in the sound of the voice

  • bad breath

  • difficulty opening the mouth

In some cases, tonsilloliths, also known as tonsil stones or tonsillar calculi, may be present. A tonsillolith is a calcified build-up of material in the crevices of the tonsils. They are generally small, but in rare cases, tonsilloliths have measured 30 centimeters and above. Tonsilloliths can be a nuisance and sometimes difficult to remove, but they are not generally harmful.

When to see a doctor

Although rare, tonsillitis can sometimes cause the throat to swell to such an extent that breathing becomes difficult. If this occurs, medical attention is necessary and urgent

Additionally, if a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they should visit their doctor:

  • fever

  • stiff neck

  • muscle weakness

  • sore throat that persists for longer than 2 days

Diagnosis of tonsillitis

  • Resting enables the body to focus its energy on fighting the infection rather than using it on daily activities

  • Drinking plenty of fluids will prevent the throat from drying out and becoming more uncomfortable. When the body is fighting an infection, it needs more hydration than normal. Warm, preferably caffeine-free drinks can also soothes

  • Gargling with saltwater might help with discomfort.

Please contact a doctor if symptoms persist

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