A sore throat and swollen tonsils are the symptoms of a condition called tonsillitis 23. The tonsils are lymph nodes located in the back of the mouth that are responsible for trapping bacteria and other potentially harmful substances and preventing infections in the body. When these harmful substances become trapped on the tonsils, they cannot travel down into the throat. When the tonsils become plagued with bacteria and other substances, they can become swollen and inflamed.
The most common cause of tonsillitis is the same viruses that cause the common cold, according to MayoClinic.com 123. When tonsillitis is caused by a bacterium, it is usually Streptococcus pyogenes, which is the same bacterium that causes strep throat 23.
The most common symptoms of tonsillitis include a sore throat, swollen tonsils and difficulty swallowing 23. According to Medline Plus, the sore throat is usually severe and lasts longer than 48 hours 2. A white or yellowing covering may also develop on the surface of the tonsils.
Bacterial tonsillitis can be effectively treated with antibiotics 23. It is important to take the entire round of antibiotics even if symptoms go away during the course of treatment. There is no cure for tonsillitis caused by a virus 23. Home-care strategies such as bed rest, increased fluid intake, saltwater gargles and throat lozenges may help reduce the severity of symptoms and increase comfort level until the infection goes away. In those with recurrent episodes of tonsillitis, surgery to remove the tonsils may be recommended 23.
Medline Plus notes that the sore throat and swollen tonsils associated with tonsillitis usually go away within two to three days after the treatment begins 23. It is also noted that some people may require a second round of antibiotics if the first round was not successful in treating the infection. Tonsillitis is usually cured within 10 days 23.
Tonsillitis that is caused by streptococcus can lead to rheumatic fever or inflammation of the kidneys, called glomerulonephritis, if left untreated 23. Chronic tonsillitis can lead to further health problems such as sleep apnea, difficulty breathing, infection in the surrounding tissues and abscesses in the tonsils 23.
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