Understanding Tonsillitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options


Tonsils, also known as tonsillopharyngitis, are a pair of soft tissues which are located on either side of the throat. They serve as your body’s initial line of defence. They swell and hurt when germs or viruses invade them. Infected and swollen tonsils are called tonsillitis.

Although tonsillitis can affect people of all ages, young children and adults are the most commonly affected. Adult tonsillitis is uncommon because the tonsil’s immune system deteriorates after puberty. Tonsillitis often gets better on its own with the use of recommended medication. An ENT surgeon may advise surgery if a patient develops a persistent sore throat, breathing issues, or obstructive sleep apnea due to inflamed tonsils.

Tonsillitis causes and preventive measures

How to identify tonsillitis?

  • Throat pain
  • Bad breath
  • Ear ache
  • Change in voice
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Difficult to eat and drink
  • No appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Bacterial infections like strep throat
  • Viral infections like cold, herpes, influenza viruses etc

How is tonsillitis treated?

The treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause of the infection. If a virus causes the infection, the symptoms can be treated with pain relievers and rest. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections and are not typically prescribed for tonsillitis caused by a virus. If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed. Penicillin is the most common antibiotic used to treat tonsillitis that is caused by streptococcus pyogenes. In addition to antibiotics, antihistamines, painkillers and other necessary drugs are recommended. Taking the full course of antibiotics is important, even if the symptoms improve before the infection is completely gone, as this prevents recurrent tonsillitis.

In severe cases of tonsillitis, a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) may be recommended. Surgery is typically reserved for cases where the tonsils are so enlarged that they obstruct breathing or swallowing or the patient has recurrent tonsillitis that does not respond to other treatments. Advanced and painless treatment options are available to remove infected tonsils.

How to prevent tonsillitis in adults and children?

Some steps that can be taken to prevent tonsillitis are:

  • Wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Use a clean toothbrush and tongue cleaner
  • Avoid sharing drinking glasses, water bottles, boxes etc
  • Do not smoke or expose yourself to passive smoking
  • Avoid eating ice creams and cool drinks regularly


Tonsillitis is a common condition caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, and swollen tonsils. Treatment depends on the cause of the infection and may include antibiotics or surgery. Tonsillitis is often cured with medication and by following preventive measures. Preventive measures include frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and avoiding smoking. If you experience any symptoms of tonsillitis, contact your ENT specialist and get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Neglecting tonsils may cause difficulty in eating and swallowing. Get treated before it becomes severe.

About the author

Dr.GVK Chaitanya Rao | Best ent doctor hyderabad

Dr. Chaitanya Rao, Managing director at Dr. Rao’s ENT group of hospitals has 10 years experience in the field of ENT.

His special areas of interest include Nose & sinus surgeries, Otology, Snoring and sleep apnea surgeries. During his Post-graduation itself he was invited as a visiting physician to House Institute of Medical sciences, Los Angeles; Rhinology and Anterior skull base unit, Ohio State University Medical Centre, Columbus, Ohio and University of Michigan from where he picked up his skills.

He plays a key role (Course Director & co-ordinator) in giving hands on training to around 150 ENT surgeons every year from all around the world for initiating and improving their ENT surgical skills as a part of Hyderabad ENT Research Foundation initiatives.

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