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The tonsils are two oval-shaped masses of tissue in the back of the throat that act as your immune system’s first line of defense against germs and contaminants that enter the mouth. When the tonsils become infected, they become inflamed and swollen, which can lead to a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. The most common causes of tonsillitis are viral infections and bacterial infections such as strep throat.
- Sore throat
- Tenderness in the throat
- Red tonsils
- Whitish patches on the surface of the tonsils
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Bad breath
- A scratchy or muffled voice
- Loss of appetite
- Neck pain or stiffness
Young children between the ages of 5 and 15 are most commonly affected by tonsillitis. While most infections are relatively mild and easily treatable with medication, bacterial infections of the tonsils (such as strep) can lead to more serious conditions such as rheumatic and scarlet fever, breathing problems, and sinusitis (the inflammation of the sinuses). Because of this, if you suspect that you or your child has contracted tonsillitis, talk to your health care provider. The bacteria and viruses that cause the infection can be highly contagious; prompt treatment may be needed to prevent further infection and medical complications.
Tonsillitis is commonly diagnosed through a physical examination and a throat swab to get a sample of any bacteria that may be causing the infection.
Treatment for tonsillitis will depend on the cause of the infection. During your appointment, discuss your or your child’s symptoms with your health care provider to determine the treatment plan that’s right for you.