Tonsillitis (Swollen Tonsils): Types, Causes, Symptoms and Home Treatments

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TonsillitisIn the past, swollen tonsils were a condition mostly associated with children. You get tonsillitis, you have your tonsils taken out, and then, you get to eat ice cream. Fortunately, that’s not how things are done today. Most doctors will try to cure tonsillitis first, waiting until there’s no choice but to cut them out. That being said, with all of the other possible throat infections, it may be hard to tell what tonsillitis is and what it isn’t.

In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of tonsillitis, the causes of tonsillitis, and even some tonsillitis home treatments. Everything you need to know about tonsillitis and taking care of it.

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is, in very basic terms, the inflammation of the tonsils. What you may not know is that the tonsils are actually a collection of lymphoid tissue at the back of the mouth. There are numerous causes of inflammation. Bacterial infections like strep throat (streptococcus) can cause tonsillitis as well as viral infections like the flu. Even the common cold might trigger tonsillitis. The variety of causes is due in part to what the tonsils actually do. The tonsils act as nets, catching various germs and infections before they can infect your airways. But sometimes, these infections will get the better of the tonsils.

Types of Tonsillitis

As previously mentioned, the tonsils are actually a group of tissues, and the different elements that make up the tonsils may have different reactions to the condition. The five types of tonsillitis are as follows:

  • Acute tonsillitis. Acute tonsillitis is a sore throat caused by a bacteria or a virus.
  • Peritonsillar abscess (PTA) or quinsy. PTA is caused by a bacterial infection and can create abscesses in the mouth filled with pus. This type of tonsillitis usually occurs when acute tonsillitis is left untreated.
  • Recurring tonsillitis. Recurring tonsillitis is exactly what its name is. It’s tonsillitis that has occurred multiple times in one year (seven times in one year, five times within two years, three times, or each year for three years).
  • Tonsil or tonsillar hyperplasia or tonsillar hypertrophy is the abnormal enlargement of the palatal tonsils.
  • Chronic tonsillitis. Chronic tonsillitis is when reoccurring tonsillitis infections cause issues like bad breath, tender cervical nodes, and a chronic sore throat.

Causes of Tonsillitis

We’ve noted there are two basic causes of tonsillitis: bacterial and viral. However, within those two causes, there are a number of sources. The most common are streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), which are the bacteria that causes strep throat. In terms of viruses, the main culprits are influenza, the Epstein-Barr virus, parainfluenza, enteroviruses, and the herpes simplex virus.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis

The symptoms of tonsillitis are pretty straight forward, with a sore throat and swollen tonsils being the most common. Beyond those, symptoms can include:

  • Enlarged, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • White or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils
  • Stomachache (this occurs more often in young children than adults)
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • A scratchy, muffled or throaty voice
  • Headache
  • Bad breath

Tonsillitis Home Remedies

In the past, your tonsils were removed if you had tonsillitis more than once or twice. These days, however, doctors will use surgery as a last resort only.  The tonsils help filter viruses and bacteria from getting into your airways, and the longer they can do that job, the better. What can you do in the meantime? Doctor’s will often prescribe antibiotics, but there are a few home remedies you may want to try as well.

Lemon Juice1. Sleep

Like any other viral or bacterial infection, one of your best allies can be rest. Give your body the time to recover and combat whatever it is causing tonsillitis.

2. Lemon juice

Lemons have a rather high vitamin C content that can help boost the body’s infection-fighting systems. An easy way of drinking lemon juice is to add the juice of one lemon to a glass of warm water. Add a teaspoon of honey, a pinch of salt and drink (take this concoction slowly, do not chug it). It works best if you can drink this twice a day for a week.

3. Basil

Basil has a long history of use as a natural anti-inflammatory and antiviral herb, and both properties come in handy with tonsillitis. You can consume basil easily by adding a dozen fresh basil leaves to one and one-half cups of water. Boil the water for 10 minutes and add the juice of one lemon. Drinking this two or three times a day for a week may help with tonsillitis.

4. Mint

Mint can help fight bacteria and help soothe your throat. Use it in something warm like a mint tea.

5. Saltwater Rinse

A long-used remedy for all infections related to the throat, rinsing with saltwater is one of the easiest things you can do to help tonsillitis move along outside of sleep. Take a teaspoon of salt and mix it in one cup of warm water. Gargle with the salt water and then spit out. Repeat a couple of times a day for a week.

While these and other home remedies may help or get rid of tonsillitis, if it continues to be a problem, go seek professional medical care as prolonged exposure to tonsillitis can lead to throat damage and the possibility of the infection spreading elsewhere.

Tonsillitis Can Be a Pain!

Tonsillitis can be a real pain. It can make your throat sore and scratchy and cause other problems like headaches. Whether bacterial or viral, it’s best that you take care of it quickly via home remedies or a doctor’s care. The last thing you want to do is let tonsillitis spread and do some long-term damage. And even if you don’t end up having your tonsils taken out, you’re an adult now. You can have as much ice cream as you want!


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