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Tonsillitis

Can I get treatment for tonsillitis online?

The Online Clinic can prescribe treatment for tonsillitis if we suspect that it is bacterial in origin. Please complete a free consultation online to proceed.

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What is tonsillitis?

Tonsils are tissues that form part of your body's defence (immune) system. The two tonsils are located at the back of your throat, one each side. They contain cells that are able to capture germs, such as bacteria and viruses, which enter the body and may travel into your airways, causing infection.

Tonsillitis or inflammation of the tonsils occurs when the tonsils become infected. The infection causes the tonsils to become red, swollen and inflamed, and sometimes become covered with a whitish coating or spots. The symptoms of tonsillitis include pain and soreness of the throat, swollen neck glands, fever, bad breath, and loss of voice, but you may suffer headache and ear ache. Children may feel or be sick and have stomach ache. In severe cases of inflammation of the tonsils, the airways can become blocked. Usually, the infection persists for about one week. However, complications such as secondary ear or sinus infections or abscesses may occasionally occur.

What causes tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is caused by bacteria and viruses. The most common bacterial cause of tonsillitis are the Streptococcus class of bacteria that result in sore throats (often referred to as strep throat). Viral causes include the Epstein-Barr virus, influenza virus, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, and Herpes simplex virus.

Who is at risk of tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is most common in children and young people, but can occur in people of all ages. It is transmitted in airborne droplets and by close contact with an infected person, so places like schools, universities, and social clubs are likely sources of infection.

When should a doctor be contacted?

You should seek medical attention if the sore throat continues for longer than a few days or becomes severe or worsens, swallowing becomes more difficult, if a high fever develops, or you start vomiting.

How is tonsillitis diagnosed?

The physical symptoms are usually sufficient to diagnose tonsillitis. Nevertheless, it is important to identify the cause to determine the correct treatment. It is sometimes impossible to identify whether the infection is bacterial or viral by looking at the throat. However, a test for Streptococcus or a throat swab will determine a bacterial infection and, if negative, then a viral infection can be assumed.

How is tonsillitis treated?

Generally, tonsillitis is a self-limiting condition, meaning that it resolves without treatment. Otherwise, treatment depends on the cause. If symptom appearance or a test indicates that the infection is caused by bacteria, then antibiotics will be prescribed. To ensure that all bacteria are killed, the whole course of antibiotics must be taken despite symptom improvement within a few days after beginning treatment.

Antibiotics are not effective in killing viruses, and your body's immune system has to do this. However, paracetamol can reduce fever, and sore throats may be eased by warm or very cold drinks, soft foods, salt-water gargles, and throat lozenges. Other helpful tips include rest and, despite difficulty in swallowing, to drink enough liquid because dehydration will make you feel worse.

If you have persisting or recurring tonsillitis, or your tonsils obstruct your airways, then they need to be removed by a surgical procedure called tonsillectomy. However, other techniques may be used, such as laser treatment.

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