Tonsilitis Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    The most common symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat Table 01. Other symptoms of either form of tonsillitis may include difficulty swallowing, fever, a hoarse or raspy voice, swollen glands in the neck or jaw, headaches, ear pain, skin rash, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

    As the condition progresses, you may develop a fever (100° F [38°C] or higher). Once a sore throat occurs, you may have difficulty swallowing, and the glands in your neck may become swollen. The tonsils may become reddened and enlarged in some cases, but show only mild redness in others. The tonsils may show specs of pus, or they may be covered with a gray or white coating. There may be tiny red dots or spots near the back of the roof of the mouth.

    Very young children may have abdominal pain or diarrhea, a poor appetite, a runny nose, and other symptoms not centered in the area of the throat. Children may complain of not feeling well, and may also experience vomiting, headache, or abdominal pain before developing throat pain.

    Symptoms of viral tonsillitis usually develop over a period of one or two days. A sore throat may be the first symptom, although it sometimes does not develop until a day or two into the illness. Other symptoms of viral tonsillitis may include voice changes, runny nose, cough, swollen and painful neck glands, and red, inflamed tonsils. An examination may reveal small sores (ulcers), or a white coating covering the tonsils, back of the throat, or roof of the mouth.

    Table 1.  Common Symptoms of Tonsillitis

    Sore throat
    Difficulty swallowing
    Tender or swollen neck glands
    Fever and/or chills
    Loss of voice or other voice changes
    White patches in the throat or on the tonsils
  • Risk Factors

    Tonsillitis occurs most commonly in children. Tonsillitis is extremely common in children under 10 years of age. Young children are more susceptible to tonsillitis than adolescents and adults because their immune responses are less developed. Tonsillitis also becomes less common as children grow because the tonsils shrink with age. Among infants and preschool-aged children, viral tonsillitis is more frequent, while older children and adults are more likely to have bacterial tonsillitis. The tonsils can also become enlarged when an individual is infected with mononucleosis.

    Children exposed to household secondhand smoke face a higher risk of requiring surgery for recurrent tonsillitis than do children from smoke-free households. An estimated 20% of all tonsillectomies performed each year in the U.S. are related to secondhand smoke.

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