Tonsillitis - Causes 

Causes of tonsillitis 

Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by a viral infection.

Viruses known to cause tonsillitis include:

In rare cases, tonsillitis can also be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever.

If this is the case, you'll probably feel very ill. You'll have a sore throat and the lymph glands in your throat may be swollen. You may also have a fever and feel very tired.

Bacterial tonsillitis

Bacterial tonsillitis can be caused by a number of different bacteria, but it's usually due to group A streptococcus bacteria.

In the past, serious bacterial infections, such as diphtheria and rheumatic fever, have been linked with tonsillitis. However, this is now rare because these conditions are vaccinated against and treatment for them has greatly improved.

How tonsillitis is spread

Tonsillitis itself isn't contagious but the infections that cause it are.

Viruses, such as those that cause colds and flu, are spread through coming into close contact with someone who's infected.

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of their nose and mouth. You can become infected by breathing in the contaminated droplets. This is known as direct contact.

You can also become infected if you touch a surface or object that the droplets have landed on and then touch your face. This is known as indirect contact.

Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Curiousss said on 10 October 2014

I wonder how it is said that Tonsilitis is harmless. No word about how it affects your heart and your liver - thee same cause can cause a big problems with your health afterwards

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Boot13 said on 20 June 2014

My teacher colleague at work has gone off with tonsillitis again, we share same keyboard and computer, is it possible to catch it this way, was using it before told he had tonsillitis, it's going to get blitzed now !

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lisamcfc said on 12 September 2012

I had Hand Foot & Mouth from my daughter and caught tonsilitis through it, it was far worse than I've ever had it before!!

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Allstar said on 03 September 2012

Is it possible for an adult to contract Tonsillitis from a child that is suffering from Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease?

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