You woke up this morning with a sore throat and a fever. It's difficult to swallow and the lymph nodes in your neck feel swollen. Is this tonsillitis? What caused it? Is there an effective treatment that can make you feel better fast or are you going to have to just wait out the sickness? How long does tonsillitis last?
Answering these questions will require a visit to the doctor. Rest assured, tonsillitis generally provides enough telltale signs that diagnosing it isn't a very difficult process. Generally, your doctor will be able to spot the illness through a physical examination, though a throat culture is also a common part of that exam. As noted by Healthline, to perform the throat culture, your doctor will gently swab the back of your throat and then send this culture to the laboratory to confirm the cause of your throat infection.
According to information provided by Mayo Clinic, tonsillitis is inflammation of the two oval shaped pads -- known as tonsils -- on each side of your throat. Tonsillitis is most frequently seen in children and teenagers, as they often pick up germs from other children. However, adults can contract tonsillitis as well, particularly if they work around children. Those who regularly use public transportation or work in a highly public area may also frequently come in contact with the germs that cause tonsillitis.
The inflammation present in your tonsils can be caused either by a common virus, or by bacterial infections such as group A streptococcus, which is the same bacteria responsible for strep throat. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important as your treatment will depend on whether your tonsillitis is viral-caused or bacterial. If the source of the illness is viral, then you will be encouraged to treat yourself at home with rest, fluids, comforting foods and beverages, and pain relievers. However, if the cause of the inflammation is bacterial, you will likely be prescribed a course of antibiotics. Either way, your tonsillitis should clear up relatively quickly and you'll be feeling better soon.
What Are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?
Tonsils are the body's first line of defense against bacterial or viruses that enter through the mouth, which may explain why they're prone to infection. The immune functions of the tonsils declines after puberty, resulting in adult cases of tonsillitis as well as issues with recurring infections. The following are common symptoms of tonsillitis. While these symptoms generally involve the throat, signs of illness may manifest in other parts of the body as well. While most symptoms are mild, tonsillitis presenting with a fever of 103 degrees or more, difficulty breathing, extreme difficulty swallowing, or extreme weakness or fatigue require immediate medical help.
Red, Swollen Tonsils
As tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, the most common symptom is, of course, red and swollen tonsils. You also may see a white or yellow patches or coating on the throat.
Another hallmark symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat. You may find it difficult or painful to swallow due to the soreness. Your voice may be scratchy and you may find that you need a lozenge in order to combat the dryness and ache of your throat. Sore throats from tonsillitis are also often accompanied by bad breath.
Enlarged Lymph Glands in the Neck
Glands may be felt on either side of the neck and may be tender. Tenderness may also extend to the jaw, or you may feel like you have a stiff neck.
Stomach aches are not always experienced with tonsillitis, and this symptom is more common in younger children than it is in teens and adults.
The pain of tonsillitis may extend to the head or ears.
In very young children who are unable to explain their symptoms to you, tonsillitis will often present with drooling due to difficult swallowing, a difficulty eating, and unusual fussiness. The germs that cause tonsillitis make you highly contagious to others, so it is important to remain vigilant about hand washing and to stay away from others until you've either been treated by antibiotics for at least 24 hours or until your infection is no longer active.
While most cases of tonsillitis resolve within a week to ten days, there are sometimes consequences to the illness, including:
- Recurrent tonsillitis, which is many cases of acute tonsillitis during a year.
- Chronic tonsillitis, which lasts longer than acute tonsillitis and presents with symptoms such as bad breath, a stiff neck, and tender lymph nodes.
- Dehydration due to the inability to comfortably swallow.
- Obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the patient's airway swells and prevents them from getting quality sleep.
- Tonsillar cellulitis, when the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
- Peritonsillar abscess, which occurs when pus pockets form behind the tonsils.
- Rheumatic fever or post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which are secondary inflammation caused by the patient's failure to complete a full course of antibiotics.
Surgery to remove the tonsils may be required in cases that involve tonsils that remain enlarged and impact breathing or sleeping, or tonsillitis that does not subside after antibiotic treatment.
Tonsillitis is a common disorder that requires treatment and monitoring in order to prevent complications and to feel better fast. While this illness cannot be entirely prevented, there are a number of things you can do to avoid you or your children from becoming sick or spreading the illness to others, such as:
- Regular hand washing.
- Avoiding sharing food or drinks with others who might be sick.
- Replacing your toothbrush after you've had a tonsillitis infection in order to prevent giving the illness back to yourself.
- Sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow to avoid releasing germs into the air.
- Remaining at home and away from others until your tonsillitis subsides.
If you think you may have tonsillitis, contact CV/ENT Surgical Group to schedule an appointment to see one of our doctors. We will provide a thorough evaluation to determine your illness, whether the cause is bacterial or viral, and present the surgical or non-surgical options to you.