What is Tonsillitis

Jul 11
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The tonsils are lymphatic tissues located on both sides of the back of the throat. The purpose of the tonsils is to produce antibodies to fight respiratory infections entering through the nose, mouth or throat. Sometimes, during this fight the tonsils themselves succumb to an infection called tonsillitis. The adenoids are another set of lymphatic tissues located in the back of the nasal cavity that also assist the tonsils in fighting infection. It is not unusual for both the tonsils and adenoids to become infected resulting in a surgical procedure called Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy. (T&A)


Tonsillitis is very common in children in the age range of 3-7 years.

At birth the tonsils are small. Later they increase in size. Between the ages of 3-7 years they become very large. Between the age of 7-8 years they shrink.

Tonsillectomy is a very common childhood operation.

1 in every 10,000 people under the age of 18 years have tonsillectomy in a year.

In 1994 it was 48 in every 10,000 people under 18 years that had a tonsillectomy in a year.

Today tonsillectomy is a last resort treatment.

It is interesting to note that the first report of a tonsillectomy procedure was made by Roman surgeon Celsius in 30 AD.

Tonsillitis is a contagious disease. It is spread by droplets through coughing, sneezing and through personal contact such as kissing.

Persons with Tonsillitis should avoid close person to person contact until 24 hours after antibiotic treatment has started.

Proper hand washing is also one of the keys to preventing cross contamination to others.


According to Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia; infection of the tonsils may be:

Acute, Sub-acute and Chronic.

Acute infection: this may be caused by a bacteria or virus.

Sub-acute infection: this is caused by bacterium Actinomyces and can last a period of 3 weeks or up to 3 months.

Chronic infection: this is a bacterial infection that can lasts for long periods of time if it is not treated . In these cases a tonsillectomy will be recommended by the otolaryngologist.


One of the first symptom is a severe throat along with:

Pain on swallowing.

Ear pain especially when swallowing, this is because the same nerves at the back of the throat also goes to the ears.


Fever with chills.

Nausea and vomiting.


On oral examination the tonsils will appear red, swollen, tender and enlarged.

There may also be white patches on the tonsillar tissue.


The Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist) will take a throat swab to send to the lab for a culture study to diagnose the type of infection.

If the infection is due to a bacteria usually penicillin is the antibiotic ordered.

Treatment will also include pain management sometimes in the form of throat lozenges.

Lots of fluids will also be recommended.

Gargling with warm salt water helps to sooth and relieve the soreness of the throat.

If conservative treatment does not work removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) will be prescribed by the Otolaryngologist.

The following symptoms requires Emergency Medical attention when one has tonsillitis:


Difficulty breathing.

Inability to eat or drink.

These symptoms may be due to swelling of the tonsils or the formation of a peritonsillar abscess.

Peritonsillar abscess afflicts 1 person in 3000 per year.

The tonsils are one of the first line of defense against infections to the nose, mouth and throat. When their defense break down you must seek medical attention.

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