Symptoms of tonsillitis 

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.

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Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016