Tonsils are two oval-shaped tissue pads at the back of the throat, one on each side. Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. A painful throat, enlarged tonsils, trouble swallowing and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck are all indications of tonsillitis.

Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by common viral infections, though bacterial infections can also lead to tonsillitis. Accurate diagnosis is crucial since the right course of treatment for tonsillitis depends on its underlying cause. Surgical removal of the tonsils is generally considered only when tonsillitis is recurrent, unresponsive to other treatments, or leads to severe complications.


Tonsillitis predominantly targets children ranging from preschoolers to adolescents in their mid-teens. Typical signs and symptoms of tonsillitis encompass:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • White or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils.
  • Swallowing that is painful or difficult
  • Enlarged, painful glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.
  • A voice that is scratchy, muffled, or throaty
  • Bad breath
  • Headache
  • Neck pain or stiff neck
  • Stomachache

Tonsillitis symptoms in young children who are unable to express their feelings include:

  • Refusing to eat
  • Drooling as a result of discomfort or difficult swallowing
  • Unusual fussiness

If your child exhibits any of the following, contact your doctor:

  • Sore throat that doesn’t go away in 24 to 48 hours
  • Sore throat with fever
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Severe weakness, exhaustion, or fussiness

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, get them help immediately:

  • Breathing problems
  • Severe swallowing difficulty
  • Too much drooling


Tonsillitis is most often caused by common viruses, but bacterial infections can also be responsible. The most common bacterium causing tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), which also causes strep throat. Other strains of strep and various bacteria can also lead to tonsillitis.
The tonsils serve as the immune system’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses entering through the mouth, making them particularly susceptible to infection and inflammation. However, the immune function of the tonsils declines after puberty, which may explain why tonsillitis is less common in adults.

Risk factors

Among the risk factors for tonsillitis are:

  • Age. Children are most commonly affected by tonsillitis, and those between the ages of 5 and 15 are most likely to contract bacterial tonsillitis.
  • Being exposed to bacteria frequently. School-age children often have frequent contact with their peers, increasing their exposure to viruses or bacteria that can lead to tonsillitis.