What are the Symptoms of a Tonsil Infection?

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  • Written By: Helena Reimer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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A tonsil infection can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, bad breath, fever and earaches. Red and swollen tonsils with white or yellow spots are commonly present and can be quite painful. Other symptoms include sleeping problems such as restlessness, snoring and waking up often. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and pain medications are commonly used for treating an infection of the tonsils. The risk of the infection can be reduced by covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, as well as by using hand sanitizer and frequently washing the hands with soap and water.

A tonsil infection is a condition that causes the tonsils to become inflamed and swollen. It generally affects only children, but it can affect adults as well. The symptoms can often last for a few days or more than a week, depending on the severity of the infection.

One of the most common symptoms of a tonsil infection is a sore throat. It often is accompanied by a fever, earaches, hoarseness or a total loss of one's voice. Speaking, opening the mouth and swallowing can become painful because of the inflamed tonsils. The inflammation can also cause the lymph nodes in the neck to swell, causing the neck to become stiff and sore. Other symptoms mimic that of a cold and fever, such as body aches, headaches, chills, coughing and nasal congestion.


Swollen tonsils can block the airways, which can contribute to sleeping problems such as sleep apnea, snoring, restlessness and frequently waking up during the night. In addition, not being able to sleep can lead to fatigue and mood disorders. Chronic or recurring tonsil infections can also contribute to a rotten egg smell on the breath. This is because of the pockets that often form within the tonsils and in which bacteria and other substances can lodge.

A tonsil infection can be caused by airborne viruses or bacteria. Therefore, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing is a good step to take in preventing an infection. Other steps to take include frequently washing the hands, using hand sanitizers and disinfecting surfaces into which one frequently comes into contact.

Antibiotics are commonly used for treating a tonsil infection that is caused by bacteria. Infections that are caused by a virus, however, generally do not respond well to medications. Thus the symptoms generally are treated with pain and fever medications and with anti-inflammatory drugs. Gargling with warm saltwater, drinking tea and using lozenges can help in reducing the pain as well. In severe or chronic cases, the tonsils are removed with surgery, as a last resort.


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Post 3

Does anyone here have chronic tonsil infections?

I do. My tonsils get inflamed and swollen. It goes away for a while when I'm on antibiotics and then it returns. I think I'm going to have to get a tonsillectomy.

Post 2

@MikeMason-- Tonsil swelling due to an infection is more severe than a sore throat. A sore throat is also a symptom of a tonsil infection, but there are also other symptoms that set it apart.

The tonsils could have an abnormal color or pus. The infection will also cause swollen lymph glands and you can feel the swelling in your neck. This sometimes causes neck pain too. Another symptom of an infection is fever. So if all of these symptoms exist, it's definitely tonsillitis and not just a sore throat.

When I had tonsillitis, my tonsils were so swollen that I was afraid it would shut off my throat. I had trouble swallowing and eating. My neck was swollen and painful to the touch. When my doctor did a physical exam, he said my tonsils have a whitish look to them. I had to take antibiotics to clear it up.

Post 1

How can I tell apart a sore throat and a tonsil infection?

My tonsils are red, painful and swollen, but doesn't this usually occur with a sore throat as well?

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