Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. A sore throat is the most common of all tonsillitis symptoms. In addition, you may also have a cough, fever, headache, feel sick, feel tired, find swallowing painful, and have swollen neck glands. The tonsils may swell and become red. Pus may appear as white spots on the tonsils. Symptoms typically get worse over 2-3 days and then gradually go, usually within a week.

Tonsillitis has both viral and bacterial causes, though most cases are caused by viruses such as Epstein-Barr (associated with mononucleosis) and adenovirus. When tonsillitis is caused by the Group A streptococcal bacteria, the condition is more commonly termed "strep throat". There have also been fungal and parasitic causes of tonsillitis.

Most infections begin when a person breathes in bacteria- or virus-infected droplets that another person has breathed, coughed, or sneezed out. Other types of contact, though, can also spread the infection. As a first line of defense, the tonsils filter much of what is inhaled through the mouth and nose. The tonsils may swell and become infected themselves as they are collecting white blood cells to fight off bacteria and viruses.

Common tonsillitis symptoms include sore throat, visibly red and swollen tonsils, white patches on the tonsils, fever, headache, difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, loss of voice, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and jaw, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing. Viral tonsillitis will usually result in cold-like symptoms, whereas bacterial tonsillitis usually results in sudden and severe fever along with swollen lymph nodes and without cold-like symptoms.

  • Not treating is an option as many tonsil infections are mild and soon get better.
  • Have plenty to drink. It is tempting not to drink very much if it is painful to swallow. You may become mildly dehydrated if you don't drink much, particularly if you also have a fever. Mild dehydration can make headaches and tiredness much worse.

Paracetamol or ibuprofen ease pain, headache, and fever. To keep symptoms to a minimum it is best to take a dose at regular intervals as recommended on the packet of medication rather than now and then. For example, take paracetamol four times a day until symptoms ease. Although either paracetamol or ibuprofen will usually help, there is some evidence to suggest that ibuprofen may be more effective than paracetamol at easing symptoms in adults. Paracetamol is usually the preferred first-line option for children, but ibuprofen can be used as an alternative. Note: some people with certain conditions may not be able to take ibuprofen. So, always read the packet label.