Tonsillitis is a relatively common ailment that mostly affects children and young teenagers. Chronic tonsillitis is a bit more serious and is characterised by symptoms that don’t go away after a week or two.
Ahead, we’ll take a look at some of the causes, symptoms, treatments, home remedies, and prevention methods for tonsillitis.
What is Chronic Tonsillitis?
Your tonsils are two lymph nodes that sit at the back of your throat. These are one of the first lines of defence against infection. When these lymph nodes get infected, though, it’s called tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can be acute, recurrent, or chronic. Acute tonsillitis only lasts for a few days, up to a couple of weeks. These represent the majority of cases of tonsillitis, and the symptoms will likely pass if you properly treat the problem.
Recurrent tonsillitis is when you experience multiple instances of tonsillitis in a year or two. These repeat infections can eventually lead to chronic tonsillitis.
Chronic tonsillitis is often the most serious and is diagnosed when your symptoms last for longer than the two-week mark. Repeat infections can lead to long-term infections, which can lead to complications such as sleep apnea, chronic bad breath and other issues.
Causes of Tonsillitis
Tonsils defend the body against illness, but that doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable to viruses and bacteria themselves. As a result of their position, bacteria and viruses can infect the tonsils and cause chronic inflamed tonsils.
Both bacteria and viruses can be the culprits behind tonsillitis. Strep throat is one of the most well-known bacterial infections that cause chronic inflamed tonsils, though not the only one.
More commonly, though, viruses such as the common colds are the culprits behind tonsillitis.
Is Tonsillitis Contagious?
Whether or not tonsillitis is contagious depends on the cause of your case. As a general rule, though, tonsillitis is contagious to most people you meet.
The only time tonsillitis won’t be contagious is if the person has already come in contact with the particular strain of virus that is causing your problem.
Tonsillitis will be contagious most of the time if you’re experiencing a bacterial infection. Strep throat, as you may have heard, is highly contagious.
How Do People Contract Tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is most common in children and young teens. People in this age group aren’t known for their sanitation, which is one of the ways viruses and bacteria spread.
They may contact infected children at school, then experience a sore throat and other symptoms (more on these below).
Failing to seek proper medical treatment for tonsillitis can lead to chronic tonsillitis, which has a host of complications, even leading to a spread of the infection.
There are a variety of tonsillitis symptoms, the most obvious of which is a sore throat. Those who experience chronic inflamed tonsils will likely have frequent bouts of sore throats, and those who suffer from acute tonsillitis will have a very painful sore throat.
Some of the other symptoms include:
- Bad breath
- A raspy voice
- Painful swallowing
- Trouble sleeping
- Stomach aches
- Neck pain
- Stiff jaw
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White and yellow spots on the tonsils.
While visiting a doctor is recommended for those who experience tonsillitis, it isn’t always necessary. Your immune system can take care of viral infections with proper home care, and you won’t need to take any drastic measures.
Chronic tonsillitis is a different story, though, and requires medical attention. Your doctor will likely prescribe you antibiotics to help rid your body of the infection, then come back for a checkup to make sure everything is okay.
In severe cases, your doctor will prescribe surgery to remove your tonsils, which is called a tonsillectomy. While the surgery is one of the most common, doctors will usually save this as a last resort.
If you experience chronic inflamed tonsils, though, you will likely need the surgery.
Since pain while swallowing is a common symptom of tonsillitis, it’s common for some infected individuals to become dehydrated from a lack of fluid. In these cases, a doctor will prescribe pain medication, and possibly some IV fluids.
If you or your child are experiencing acute tonsillitis, you can likely take care of the infection without going to the doctor. However, if the symptoms persist or get worse, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Home remedies to help ease the symptoms of tonsillitis include:
- Drinking a lot of water
- Staying away from smoke
- Cough drops
- Gargling salt water
- Using a humidifier to make the air easier to breathe
Preventing tonsillitis is similar to preventing most illnesses. You should wash your hands frequently and limit your interactions with people whom you know are sick.
If a doctor has diagnosed you with tonsillitis, you should stay away from others until the symptoms start to clear up. Unless you have chronic tonsillitis, you should start seeing improvement within a week.