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What is tonsillitis?

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Anyone who’s ever had tonsillitis will know it’s not much fun. Tonsillitis symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful and is generally a real nuisance.

While tonsillitis is not normally serious and usually goes away on its own within a week, an aggressive bout of tonsillitis can really stop you in your tracks. If your tonsillitis lasts longer than a week, or it keeps returning and is starting to affect your day-to-day life, speak to a doctor today.

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Tonsillitis Symptoms
Flu like symptoms could be tosillitis

Tonsillitis Symptoms and Causes

The main symptom of tonsillitis is, of course, a sore throat. Your tonsils are located at the back of the throat, so when these become inflamed you’ll feel a little uncomfortable.

You might feel as if you have a lump in your throat that you can’t get rid of and experience difficulty swallowing. This makes activities such as eating and drinking unpleasant.

It can feel like you have the flu, as many people get tired, feverish and have a headache or earache. Some sufferers also develop a cough, or swollen glands in their neck. You could lose your voice or experience feelings of nausea.

Visual signs of tonsillitis include red tonsils, or tonsils covered in a coating of small, white spots.

Tonsillitis is normally caused by viruses. This explains why you might get flu-like symptoms, as influenza is one of the viruses that can contribute to the condition.

Like many viruses, tonsillitis can be passed on through coughs and sneezes (direct contact) or through touching a surface that someone with tonsillitis has also been in contact with (indirect contact).

In some cases, tonsillitis is also caused by the streptococcus bacteria. One of the ways you can tell if your tonsillitis is bacterial is by checking your breath - the bacteria that cause tonsillitis will often leave you with bad breath.

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Treating tonsillitis

As with many viruses, the usual treatment is to get plenty of rest and keep yourself hydrated. This can be difficult if it’s particularly painful for you to swallow, but the positives outweigh the negatives here.

Painkillers are also an option, but as tonsillitis regularly affects young people, it’s important to note that no one under the age of 16 should be given aspirin.

If your symptoms last longer than a week, or you’re having trouble breathing, it’s probably time to talk to a doctor. Equally, if you experience regular bouts of tonsillitis that keep coming back for more, you might have chronic tonsillitis and should seek treatment right away.

If your tonsillitis is caused by bacteria, you might be prescribed antibiotics. These are reserved only for severe cases and will normally consist of penicillin.

It’s only in rare cases that a doctor will recommend you get your tonsils taken out. Guidelines indicate that this surgery should only be an option if you have suffered:

  • At least seven bouts of tonsillitis within the past 12 months
  • At least five bouts of tonsillitis each year for the past two years
  • At least three bouts of tonsillitis each year for the past three years

If any of these apply to you, a doctor can talk you through the various surgery options available.

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Treating tonsillitis can be done with rest and hydration
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Whether you want advice on the best way to manage your tonsillitis symptoms, or you have been experiencing problems for a long time and want to know what to do next, speak to one of our doctors today for advice when you need it most.


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