Common ailments

Tonsillitis

I am 28 years old and in the past year I have had tonsillitis 4 times. I never had problems with my tonsils as a child, but recently I’ve suffered with them so terribly that I’m often unable to eat due to my enlarged tonsils and the pain in my throat. Painkillers don’t always help and I wonder if there’s anything else I could try.

Tonsillitis is a common condition where the tonsils become inflamed, usually as the result of a viral infection. The tonsils are two small glands found on either side of the back of the throat and which form part of the body’s immune system, trapping and killing bacteria and viruses to stop them moving further into the body. When the main infection is near the tonsils, they often swell up, become red and inflamed and sometimes form white spots on their surface. As we grow out of childhood, tonsils are less important as the body is able to fight infection without them.

Symptoms of tonsillitis often include a sore throat, swollen neck glands, fever, headaches, tiredness and earache. In some cases, it is possible to develop ‘quinsy’- a pus filled abscess on the tonsils that may need draining.

There are many different viruses and bacteria that can cause tonsillitis. Whether due to a virus or bacteria, the infection is spread from person to person through airborne droplets, hand contact or kissing.

Tonsillitis isn’t usually a serious condition but where, as in your case, it is occurring frequently and causing too much discomfort to allow you to eat then it is advisable to return to your GP. Your GP may carry out some tests to determine whether your tonsillitis is caused by a virus or a bacterial infection. If it is bacterial, then the infection can spread more easily so it’s important that you stay away from public places, such as work, until your symptoms have passed and wash your hands regularly.

There is no specific treatment for tonsillitis but there are things you can do to help ease the symptoms. As well as taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease any pain, aim to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. If test results show that your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, your GP may prescribe a short course of antibiotics. If you continue to have repeated episodes of tonsillitis which are affecting your daily life, your GP may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils (a tonsillectomy), banishing tonsillitis for good, although you can still get sore throats the same as anyone else.

Back to list