Tonsils are lumps of lymphoid tissues at the back of the throat. Each tonsil has 20 crevices (crypts). Tonsils help fight nose and throat infections and keep infection from spreading to other parts of the body for the first 18 months of life. Tonsillitis is an infection of the throat that causes the tonsils to become red, tender, and swollen.


Sudden and, if treated, temporary (acute) tonsillitis is usually caused by infection with streptococcal bacteria. Long lasting (chronic) tonsillitis occurs when the crypts of the tonsils become filled with pieces of food and bacteria, which makes it easy for the tonsils to become constantly infected.


Symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • A sore throat.

  • White patches on the tonsils.

  • Fever.

  • Tiredness.


Tonsillitis can be diagnosed through a physical exam. Diagnosis can be confirmed with the results of lab tests, including a throat culture.


The goals of tonsillitis treatment include the reduction of the severity and duration of symptoms, prevention of associated conditions, and prevention of disease transmission. Tonsillitis caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Usually, treatment with antibiotics is started before the cause of the tonsillitis is known. However, if it is determined that the cause is not bacterial, antibiotics will not treat the tonsillitis. If attacks of tonsillitis are severe and frequent, your caregiver may recommend surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy).


  • Rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. While the throat is very sore, eat soft foods or liquids, such as sherbet, soups, or instant breakfast drinks.

  • Eat frozen ice pops.

  • Older children and adults may gargle with a warm or cold liquid to help soothe the throat. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water.

  • Other family members who also develop a sore throat or fever should have a medical exam or throat culture.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • If you are given antibiotics, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.


  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher for more than 1 day.

  • Large, tender lumps develop in your neck.

  • A rash develops.

  • Green, yellow-brown, or bloody substance is coughed up.

  • You are unable to swallow liquids or food for 24 hours.

  • Your child is unable to swallow food or liquids for 12 hours.


  • You develop any new symptoms such as vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, chest pain, or trouble breathing or swallowing.

  • You have severe throat pain along with drooling or voice changes.

  • You have severe pain, unrelieved with recommended medications.

  • You are unable to fully open the mouth.

  • You develop redness, swelling, or severe pain anywhere in the neck.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or higher.

  • Your baby is 3 months old or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.