Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. A sore throat is the common symptom. In addition, you may also have a cough, fever, headache, feel sick, feel tired, painful swallowing, and swollen neck glands. Pus may appear as white spots on the enlarged tonsils. Symptoms typically get worse over 2-3 days and then gradually go, usually within a week. Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses, some are caused by bacteria. See separate leaflet called ‘Tonsillitis’ for more details.
Infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever)
Infectious mononucleosis is caused by a virus (the Epstein-Barr virus). It tends to cause a severe bout of tonsillitis in addition to other symptoms. See separate leaflet called ‘Glandular Fever’ for more details.
This is also known as ‘peritonsillar abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus. Quinsy is an uncommon condition where an abscess develops next to a tonsil due to a bacterial infection. It usually develops just on one side. It may follow tonsillitis or develop without a preceding tonsillitis. The tonsil on the affected side may be swollen or look normal, but is pushed towards the midline as pus forms and the abscess next to the tonsil gets bigger and bigger. Quinsy is very painful and can make you feel quite unwell. It is treated with antibiotics, but also the pus often needs to be drained with a small operation.
When do I need my tonsils taken out?
Removing the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be an option if you have frequent and severe bouts of tonsillitis. That is, five or more infections over a year or when each infection is severe enough to affect normal life (such as needing time off work or school). Throat infections are not prevented if the tonsils are removed. However, for some people, the number and severity of throat infections may be reduced after tonsillectomy.