What are the symptoms of tonsillitis and how is it treated?

·2-min read
A GP inspecting a child’s tonsils  (Getty/iStock)
A GP inspecting a child’s tonsils (Getty/iStock)

Tonsillitis is often thought of as a common affliction among children and teenagers but it can also affect adults too.

British tennis champion Emma Raducanu, 20, for instance, was forced to withdraw from the Austin Open in Texas in late February after being diagnosed with the throat condition.

Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho, 23, was likewise laid low with it towards the end of last season.

According to the NHS, tonsillitis leaves your tonsils red and swollen and “can feel like a bad cold or flu”.

The health service lists the typical symptoms associated with the condition as follows: a sore throat, problems swallowing, a high temperature of 38C or beyond, persistent coughing, a headache, nausea, earache and exhaustion.

Other symptoms that can sometimes be associated with tonsillitis and prove more severe include: swollen, painful glands in the neck (a feeling like a lump on the side of your throat), pus-filled spots on the tonsils themselves and bad breath.

The NHS states that the symptoms will usually disappear after three to four days and advises that the condition itself is not contagious, although most of the infections that cause it are, such as colds and influenza.

The standard advice if you believe you are becoming ill or have a high temperature is to stay away from work or school, blow your nose with tissues and wash your hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing to avoid passing the bug on to others.

To treat the symptoms, the NHS prescribes rest, sipping cool drinks to soothe the throat, taking paracetamol or ibuprofen and gargling warm salty water, although this last method is not recommended for children.

Lozenges, throat sprays and antiseptic solutions available from pharmacies might also provide some relief from any discomfort.

The health service advises you to seek an appointment with your local GP if you do notice those nasty pus-filled spots on your tonsils, if your sore throat is severe enough to make drinking or eating uncomfortable or if your symptoms persist beyond four days.

A doctor should be able to tell whether or not you have tonsillitis after inspecting your throat and discussing your symptoms but a swab test or blood test may also be carried out to make sure, the latter to determine whether or not you have glandular fever and returning results within two to three days.

It will then be established whether you have viral or bacterial tonsillitis, the former likely to disappear on its own and the latter requiring antibiotics to shift.

The NHS notes that it is no longer as common as it once was to have your tonsils surgically removed, although it might be required in rare cases if the tonsillitis is severe and keeps on coming back.