Swollen tonsils, what are they?

On each side of your throat are soft tissue masses with an oval shape that are your tonsils.

Part of the lymphatic system is the tonsils. Your lymphatic system aids in protecting you from disease and infection.

Your tonsils have the duty of warding off bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth.

Viruses and bacteria can infect the tonsils. They swell up when this happens.

Read on to find out more.



The same viruses that cause the common cold typically induce swollen tonsils (tonsillitis), which are not dangerous. 

 With at-home care, the symptoms typically go away in a few days.

Antibiotics are necessary to treat tonsillitis if a bacterial infection is at blame. 

Bacterial infections like strep might result in significant problems if neglected.

Tonsillitis can affect anyone at any age, but it is more common in children and teenagers.

✅ Tonsil swelling may occasionally be an indication of tonsil malignancy. 

✅ A doctor should be consulted if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as asymmetrically enlarged tonsils or persistent hoarseness.



Tonsillitis is common in young children but can also affect adults and teenagers. The most typical causes of a tonsillectomy, a surgical treatment that removes both tonsils, are chronic tonsillitis and tonsillar hypertrophy. These two disorders manifest when there is recurring swelling.


Tonsillitis signs and symptoms

The primary signs and symptoms of tonsillitis resemble a severe cold or flu. But a significant distinction is that your tonsils will be red, swollen, and painful if you have tonsillitis. Other signs and symptoms include a fever, headache, earache, sore throat, neck pain in the sides, difficulty swallowing, and weariness. The following are signs of a more serious case of enlarged tonsils. Uncomfortable, swollen glands that feel like lumps on the side of your neck; pus-filled, white patches on your tonsils.

Whenever to visit a doctor

Consult your doctor if your tonsils are enlarged for more than one or two days. Additionally, you should contact a doctor if your tonsils are so large that they are interfering with your ability to breathe or sleep, or if they are accompanied by a high temperature or excruciating discomfort. Tonsil cancer is sometimes linked to asymmetrical tonsils (although additional risk factors typically need to be present). If one of your tonsils is larger than the other, discuss the potential causes with your doctor.

Various tonsillitis causes

Adenoviruses are the most common viruses to produce swollen tonsils. The typical cold, sore throats, and bronchitis are brought on by these viruses.

  • Epstein-Barr infection (EBV). The mononucleosis virus, sometimes known as the kissing illness, produces the condition known as mononucleosis. It is transmitted through contaminated saliva.
  • The Cytomegalovirus (CMV, HHV-5). The herpes virus known as CMV generally stays latent in the body. Both pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are susceptible.
  • The mumps virus (rubeola). Through infected saliva and mucous, this highly contagious virus attacks the respiratory system.

Swollen tonsils can also be caused by certain bacteria strains. Streptococcus pyogenes is the bacterium most frequently to blame for enlarged tonsils (group A streptococcus). The bacteria that results in strep throat is this one.

About 15 to 30 percent of all tonsillitis cases are brought on by bacteria.


Why do tonsils get an infection?

Your tonsils can be prone to infection since they are one of your body’s initial lines of protection against viruses and bacteria.


Potential causes of enlarged tonsils

Although tonsillitis can strike anyone at any moment, it seems to strike kids and teenagers more frequently:

  • Tonsillitis brought on by bacteria is more prevalent in kids aged 5 to 15 years.
  • Tonsillitis brought on by a virus is more prevalent in children aged 5 and under.

Nearly every child in the US may experience tonsillitis at least once, especially after they begin going to daycare or school.


What results in one tonsil swelling?

A peritonsillar abscess may be the cause of a single, seemingly enlarged tonsil on your child (or you). A pus-filled tissue close to one tonsil indicates the presence of a peritonsillar abscess, which develops in the rear of the mouth. Because tonsillitis is frequently treated before the abscess may form, these abscesses are typical complications of tonsillitis and tend to be uncommon.

Although additional symptoms, such as a persistent sore throat and enlarged lymph nodes, typically coexist with it, one swollen tonsil can be a marker of tonsil cancer.


Choices for tonsillitis treatment

The majority of virally-induced cases of enlarged tonsils usually go away on their own. Your doctor could advise using over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as acetaminophen, throat numbing sprays, lozenges, antiseptic treatments, and lozenges (Tylenol)

You will probably require antibiotics to treat your swollen tonsils if they are the result of a bacterial infection like strep. The tonsils may need to be surgically removed if your tonsillitis recurs frequently, interferes with your normal activities, and doesn’t improve with conservative therapy. Tonsillectomy is the name of this procedure.

Tonsillectomies were once more prevalent, but now they are typically only performed in situations with persistent strep tonsillitis or its consequences, such as sleep apnea or breathing issues. Usually, it takes a half-hour to complete this process. Tonsils can be cut out with a scalpel, cauterized, or vibrated ultrasonically.


A home remedy

Your first line of defense should be seeing a doctor if your tonsils are enlarged and you’re feeling unwell. If your doctor finds that a virus is to blame for your enlarged tonsils, these natural therapies may help you feel better and heal faster.

Try these strategies:

  • obtaining plenty of rest
  • consuming fluids like water or juice that has been diluted.
  • utilizing lozenges, ice pops, or throat spray
  • sipping warm tea with honey or other warm liquids, such as clear chicken soup or broth
  • gargling with warm salt water; humidifying the air with a humidifier or boiling pots of water
  • using over-the-counter pain relievers to lower temperature and discomfort.

Tonsillitis tests and diagnosis

The greatest first action if you believe you may have tonsillitis is to see a doctor.

The underlying cause of your problem will be sought after by your doctor. They’ll accomplish this by asking you about your symptoms and using a tiny flashlight to examine the back of your throat. A cotton swab used to gently collect a sample from the tonsils and the back of the throat can also be used to conduct the following two tests:

  • a fast strep test, which determines whether you genuinely have strep throat in only a few minutes.
  • a throat culture, which must be sent to a lab and is processed over a few days.

Your doctor will likely wait for the results of the throat culture if the strep test is negative in order to be certain of your diagnosis.


Tonsillitis complications

Typically, either over-the-counter pain relievers or antibiotics can effectively treat tonsillitis (whichever your doctor decides is needed in your case).

Even though they are uncommon, complications can arise if tonsillitis is not treated in a timely manner or if you or your kid has a very severe illness. These issues can consist of dependable source

  • abscesses
  • Scarlet fever
  • severe glomerulonephritis
  • and rheumatic fever (inflammation in the kidneys)

Surgery is frequently advised for chronic tonsillitis because it is a more serious ailment and can significantly lower a child’s quality of life.


It might have cancer.

Most of the time, swollen tonsils do not indicate tonsil cancer danger for you or your child. Although swelling on just one side is a sign of tonsil cancer, there are other risk factors.

Several factors, such as:

  • if you are currently battling cancer brought on by the human papillomavirus (HPV), as researchers have just lately discovered a relationship between the two disorders
  • a persistent sore throat; the sensation that something is lodged in the throat;
  • and loss of weight an ongoing raspy voice when speaking

Only your doctor has the expertise to accurately identify a more serious condition. Therefore, the first step is always to see a doctor, whether you only have one or several of the symptoms listed above.


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