What are the Most Common Signs of Tonsillitis?

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  • Written By: Dave Slovak
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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Tonsillitis is an often painful medical condition in which a person’s tonsils become inflamed as a result of a bacterial or viral infection. It often starts out as a common cold or throat infection. Treating tonsillitis is fairly simple, but it is important to recognize the signs of tonsillitis so that the proper medical attention is sought. The most common symptoms of tonsillitis include the symptoms of a common cold as well as additional indicators such as earache, fever, and most importantly, swollen tonsils. Due to the fact that tonsillitis often affects young children, it is important for parents to familiarize themselves with the condition, although this can be difficult due to the fact that tonsillitis may initially seem like a harmless cold.

Most people are familiar with the symptoms of a common cold: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, sore throat and fatigue. When an individual has tonsillitis, he or she may initially experience several of these symptoms and dismiss the condition as a common cold that typically subsides within a week. One early indication that an individual may be developing tonsillitis is that the cold symptoms seem abnormally severe. For instance, with a common cold, an individual may complain of a sore throat that has developed due to the post-nasal drip resulting from sinus congestion. An individual with tonsillitis is likely to experience a much more intense sore throat due to infection setting in.


In addition to experiencing intensified symptoms of a common cold, individuals with tonsillitis typically register high fevers, indicating the presence of infection. Other signs of throat infection include foul-smelling breath and difficulty swallowing. One of the other early signs of tonsillitis is swollen glands, which surround the throat and frequently lead to earache, stiff neck and headache.

Perhaps the best way to check for signs of tonsillitis, though it is somewhat intrusive, is to actually look at the person’s tonsils using a flashlight. Convincing young children to open their mouths and move their tongues long enough to view the throat and tonsils can be difficult. Common visual signs of tonsillitis include red, swollen tonsils, yellow or white spots on the tonsils, or gray discoloration of the tissue on or surrounding the tonsils. In some cases, the infection may reach a point where the individual has thick mucus or blood on his or her tonsils.

Tonsillitis is a difficult condition to recognize, particularly in the early stages of infection. This is often true when the affected individual is a young child that cannot describe the symptoms he or she is experiencing. Caretakers should pay particular attention when symptoms of a common cold intensify, fever sets in, and visual indicators on the throat and tonsils appear. Watching for these signs of tonsillitis and seeking medical attention early may prevent the condition from elevating to a medical emergency.


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Post 3

Honestly, I'm always kind of relieved when I see the white bits in my throat because it means that I've got obvious throat infection symptoms and I can depend on the doctor to actually give me some antibiotics.

Often I'll be in a lot of pain for a few days before the white bits develop and I don't want to go to the doctor until I know they are going to prescribe me something that will actually help.

Post 2

@Mor - It's possible you're getting symptoms of strep throat rather than simple tonsillitis and it is reoccurring when you get run down because the infection never truly goes away.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who go on antibiotics for this kind of infection don't stay on them long enough and the bacteria just basically go into hiding rather than being completely killed off.

It might also be that you're just prone to this kind of infection. Some doctors still recommend that certain people have their tonsils removed rather than suffer from this regularly because it just keeps happening. Very few of them will do it to kids as a matter of course these days, but that doesn't mean the procedure doesn't have merits in some cases.

Post 1

For some reason I always seem to get this every couple of years and it's always almost completely unbearable. The symptoms of tonsillitis for me are a complete inability to get out of bed and constant complaining to anyone who is willing to listen to me.

Honestly, though I don't understand why I always seem to get this. I don't have a bad diet or anything and I never seem to be able to trace it to another person who coughed on me or something. I just magically contract it every now and then.

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