Tonsillitis is an infectious inflammation of the tonsils, the small glands on each side of the back of your throat.
Tonsils are important for young children, as they act as a barrier between their body and the germ-ridden world, helping fight off infections until the immune system is developed enough to take over. However, this means that the tonsils can themselves become infected.
Tonsillitis can be transmitted in two ways: viral and bacterial. Viral infections like colds or flu can cause inflammation of the tonsils, as can the bacteria strain streptococcus (group A) - the same bacteria strain which can cause impetigo and sinusitis.
The chief symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat, with visibly red and swollen tonsils. If you are suffering from the bacterial form of the infection, you may notice white spots or coating on your tonsils.
Other symptoms of tonsillitis include the following:
- losing your voice or changes to your voice
- painful and/or swollen lymph glands in your neck
- ear pain
Symptoms are generally milder if you are suffering from the viral form of the infection, and more severe if you have caught the bacterial form.
In both cases, usually the infection will start to clear up on its own after a few days. Until your symptoms disappear, you can lower the risk of passing the infection on by staying away from work or school and washing your hands after eating, going to the loo or coughing/sneezing.
There is no treatment for tonsillitis, but over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen may provide some relief from the symptoms.
You should also to be sure to get plenty of rest and continue to eat regularly and drink plenty of fluids, even if your throat is really sore.
If it really is too painful to eat or drink or even breathe comfortably, or if your symptoms show no signs of improvement after four days, it's time to head to your GP.
If you have the bacterial form of the infection, it is possible that he or she will prescribe you antibiotics.
However, if you are suffering recurrent severe bouts of tonsillitis, your GP may recommend a tonsillectomy - that's 'having your tonsils out' to you and me.