Tonsillitis or Something Else?
Healthy Living

Is it Tonsillitis or Something Else?

Aug 17 2021

Have you ever had a sore throat or troubling swallowing? While these symptoms are common for many illnesses, they could be a sign of tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils. According Matthew Vajen, DO, an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat specialist, this condition brings many patients to see him, especially younger patients.

Tonsillitis is caused by common viruses and bacterial infections like strep throat and infectious mononucleosis, also known as mono. These viruses spread through close contact with others, for example touching various surfaces, coughing and sneezing.

So, how do you know if you have tonsillitis or something else? 

“In addition to a sore throat and trouble swallowing, common tonsillitis symptoms include swollen or red tonsils, a sore throat, tender lymph nodes on either side of the neck, white or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils and bad breath,” Dr. Vajen shares.

Other symptoms can include a muffled voice, stomach pain, stiff neck and headache.

“With younger children, you may see symptoms including drooling, a refusal to eat and increased fussiness,” Dr. Vajen says.

If the infection is bacterial, your primary care provider will usually prescribe antibiotics. If your infection is viral, antibiotics will not help the infection. It will usually resolve itself after one week. However, it can last six to eight weeks depending on the virus.

Frequent bouts of tonsillitis may require tonsil removal, a procedure called tonsillectomy. Other issues that may call for tonsil removal include tonsil stones.

“Many people may have something call tonsil stones. Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, describe the debris produced by bacteria that live deep in the tonsil crypts, which are naturally occurring crevices in the tonsils,” Dr. Vajen explains. “These bacterial byproducts contain sulfur, which causes foul-smelling breath.”

Recurring strep infections may also be a reason to consider having your tonsils removed.

“Taking too many antibiotics to treat strep can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is dangerous. If you experience multiple infections in a one-year period or you miss two weeks of work or school each year due to strep, this is an indication that you should have your tonsils removed,” Dr. Vajen shares.

Learn more about tonsillitis as well as the ear, notes and throat (ENT) services we offer at Mercy Health.

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