Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, typically of rapid onset. It is a type of pharyngitis. Symptoms may include sore throat, fever, enlargement of the tonsils, trouble swallowing, and large lymph nodes around the neck. Complications include peritonsillar abscess.
Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, with about 5% to 40% of cases caused by a bacterial infection. When caused by the bacterium group A streptococcus, it is referred to as strep throat. Rarely bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, or Haemophilus influenzae may be the cause. Typically the infection is spread between people through the air. A scoring system, such as the Centor score, may help separate possible causes. Confirmation may be by a throat swab or rapid strep test.
Treatment efforts involve improving symptoms and decreasing complications. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen may be used to help with pain. If strep throat is present the antibiotic penicillin by mouth is generally recommended. In those who are allergic to penicillin, cephalosporins or macrolides may be used. In children with frequent episodes of tonsillitis, tonsillectomy modestly decreases the risk of future episodes.
About 7.5% of people have a sore throat in any three-month period and 2% of people visit a doctor for tonsillitis each year. It is most common in school aged children and typically occurs in the fall and winter months. The majority of people recover with or without medication. In 40% of people, symptoms resolve within three days, and in 80% symptoms resolve within one week, regardless of whether streptococcus is present or not. Antibiotics decrease symptom duration by approximately 16 hours.