Tonsillitis - Symptoms 

Symptoms of tonsillitis 

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A sore throat is the main symptom of tonsillitis.

Your tonsils will be red and swollen and your throat may be very painful, making swallowing difficult.

In some cases, the tonsils are coated or have white, pus-filled spots on them.

Other common symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • high temperature (fever) over 38C (100.4F)
  • coughing
  • headache
  • feeling sick 
  • feeling tired
  • pain in the ears
  • swollen, painful lymph glands in your neck
  • loss of voice or changes to your voice

The symptoms of tonsillitis usually get better after three to four days.

If you have tonsillitis that's caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu, your symptoms may be milder.

If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, such as a streptococcal infection, it's likely that your symptoms will be more severe. Your tonsils will be swollen, your throat will be very sore and you may have a fever. You may also have bad breath.

It's difficult to tell just by looking at a person's throat whether they have tonsillitis as a result of a virus or a bacterial infection. Tests are needed to confirm this.

Antibiotics may be recommended if test results show that your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection.

Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Hazzie46 said on 22 March 2014

My poor daughter age 5 has been suffering with a sore 'tongue' since yesterday, unable to swallow and in extreme discomfort. Went to the out of hours centre this evening as she had been crying all day and got the diagnosis of tonsillitis. Yet I had read nowhere that the taste buds on the tongue would be red and swollen, but at least now hopefully she can get better.

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Momosad said on 19 March 2014

I see the NHS is still treating this like a child's disease, constantly referring to "your child". It's this same opinion that has caused me to have tonsillitis several times a year my whole life & I'm now 32. Apparently I'd "grow out of it" so I couldn't have them removed. Well that proved false. I feel sorry for anyone is plagued their whole life with this like me, when I don't have tonsillitis my tonsils are permanently sore. I can't keep taking time off work & doctors are funny at issuing back to work notes for this illness.

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Thomas36 said on 25 February 2014

Sitting here day recovering slowly from tonsillitis, I am 46 and never felt so unwell before already lost half a stone due to not being able to eat and even drinking very uncomfortable , constant earache headache and my husband says I have started to snore as if I can't breath properly I wouldn't want anyone to catch this it is a cruel illness and I hope anyone out there that has it now get swell soon x

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