Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsil, usually caused by a viral infection or sometimes a bacterial infection. The tonsils are the two masses of tissue in the throat that serve as a filter to prevent germs from getting to the airway and causing infection. They also produce antibodies to fight these infections but can become overwhelmed when too many germs get trapped there. This can make them inflamed or swollen.
This condition is characterised by fever, bad breath, stiff neck, difficulty swallowing, headache, sore throat, and a white or yellowish coating on your tonsil. It is common among children, and those caused by streptococcal infections can lead to rheumatic fever or nephritis if not treated.
1. Acute Tonsillitis
This is very common in children; the symptoms only last a few days, sometimes up to two weeks, and it responds quickly to treatment.
2. Recurrent Tonsillitis
This is when you get tonsillitis repeatedly; even with proper treatment, it keeps coming back. In this case, a doctor may recommend the removal of the tonsil to prevent further infections.
3. Chronic Tonsillitis
This is when you have a long-term tonsillitis infection; it may not respond to any treatment. Chronic tonsillitis also results in tonsil stones, where materials like food particles, debris, dead cells, and saliva build up to form a hardened mass in the tonsil. These stones may come loose on their own as treatment progresses, or a doctor may remove them.
A weak immune system in both adults and children can expose them to several infections, like Tonsillitis since the body’s defence mechanism is not very active.
In most cases, many viruses, including enterovirus, adenovirus, measles, influenza, and Epstein-Barr virus, can cause this disease. However, sometimes it is caused by bacterial infections, especially the Group A streptococcal bacteria. Other bacteria like Haemophilus, influenza and Neisseria can also cause it.
People with atypical reactions to the pathogens in their mouth and throat can also be prone to tonsillitis.
To a large extent, this disease is preventable with proper oral hygiene; regular brushing and flossing of your teeth can reduce the buildup of pathogens. It would also help if you use antiseptic mouthwash to remove bacteria.
In addition, do not share personal items like toothbrushes, cutlery, and drinking glasses. Avoid secondhand smoking, stay hydrated and eat healthy to boost your immune system.
The treatment you will receive for this condition depends on your diagnosis; if it is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will give you drugs in a one-time injection or pills that will last a few days, and you will be fine after that.
For tonsillitis caused by viral infections, antibiotics may not work; your body will fight off the infection on its own. For recurrent and chronic tonsillitis, you may need tonsillectomy, a surgery to remove the tonsils.
Is Tonsillitis contagious?
Tonsillitis is not contagious, but the infectious organism can spread to other people through sneezing and coughing within 24 to 48 hours of getting the infection.
It takes 2 to 4 days to develop symptoms after exposure, so you may spread the infectious agents before noticing symptoms. After 24 hours of taking antibiotics, the infectious agent will no longer be able to transmit to other people.