Tonsils are the two balls of tissue located at the back of your throat. They function as part of the lymphatic system which helps protect you from infections. Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils caused by viral or bacterial infections.
Most tonsillitis infections are viral, usually resulting from the common cold or flu. The symptoms of viral tonsillitis are usually milder compared to bacterial tonsillitis.
As many as one in three cases of tonsillitis are a result of a bacterial infection. Bacterial tonsillitis symptoms are more severe and include bad breath.
Tonsillitis can also be recurrent and/or chronic.
If you notice any of these tonsillitis symptoms, speak with your doctor as soon as possible:
In more severe cases of tonsillitis, you might have:
If you are experiencing these symptoms, see a trusted doctor urgently.
Tonsillitis itself is not contagious, but the bacterial and viral infections that cause it are. Tonsillitis infections are highly contagious and can be caught by kissing or being in close proximity to an infected person.
The contagious period of tonsillitis largely depends on what’s causing it. Generally speaking, most people are contagious for 24 to 48 hours prior to developing any symptoms. Some will remain contagious till their symptoms resolve.
In the case of a viral infection, tonsillitis can be contagious for about 7 to 10 days. For bacterial infections, this period goes up to 2 weeks.
Children who have not undergone a tonsillectomy are most susceptible to tonsillitis. Children are also most likely to get bacterial tonsillitis, which is much rarer in adults.
It is also possible to get tonsillitis despite having had your tonsils removed, as your tonsil tissue can regenerate over time. However, having undergone a tonsillectomy is known to significantly reduce one’s risk of getting tonsilitis.
While tonsillitis cannot always be prevented, you can reduce your chances of getting tonsillitis by:
If you are experiencing tonsillitis, it is important for you to stay away from others as per your doctor’s suggestions.
While tonsillitis can often be treated at home, some severe cases might require the help of a trusted doctor. If you are experiencing the following, make an urgent visit to your doctor:
While tonsillitis complications are rare, it can lead to quinsy, which is a condition that mostly affects children aged 2 to 4. Quinsy occurs when an abscess (a pocket filled with pus) forms between your tonsils and the wall of your throat.
See a doctor urgently if you believe you might have the following quinsy symptoms:
To diagnose tonsillitis, your doctor will, among other things, examine your throat, ask about other symptoms you've had, such as a fever or cough, and look in your ears and your nose for any signs of infection.
Your doctor may check for tonsilitis by:
While tonsillitis is curable, it can recur. Below are two common treatment options for tonsillitis available in Singapore:
Penicillin taken by mouth for 10 days is the most common antibiotic treatment prescribed for tonsillitis resulting from group A Streptococcus.
It is crucial to finish your full course of antibiotics. Failing to do so may result in the infection worsening and/or spreading. It can also increase the risk of rheumatic fever and serious kidney inflammation in children.
There are alternative medicines for those who are allergic to penicillin.
A tonsillectomy can successfully treat recurring tonsillitis, chronic tonsillitis or bacterial tonsillitis that doesn't respond to antibiotics.
A tonsillectomy is usually done as a one-day outpatient procedure, though for really young children, or those with complex medical conditions, it could take longer. Complete recovery following a tonsillectomy usually takes one to two weeks.