Your tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses that sit at the sides of your throat. They act as a defense mechanism, preventing infections from entering your body. Since they come into contact with various bacteria and viruses, they can easily become infected.
Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become inflamed. Common symptoms of this condition are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a scratchy-sounding voice and bad breath. If your sore throat does not go away after a few days, it is best to visit your doctor.
Your doctor will use a lighted instrument to look at your throat, ears and nose in order to determine the cause of your infection. They will also feel your throat for swollen glands and listen to your breathing. A swab will be used to get a sample from the back of your throat; this is sent to the lab to be analyzed for streptococcal bacteria (strep throat). If the test comes back positive you have a bacterial infection, and if it comes back negative, you have a viral infection.
Tonsillitis can be treated with at-home remedies, antibiotics or surgery. Typically, your doctor may wait up to 10 days after the onset of symptoms before prescribing antibiotics. Rest, plenty of fluids and gargling with salt water can all help speed up the recovery time.
If the tonsillitis is confirmed to be the result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. A 10-day course of penicillin is prescribed, unless you are allergic. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics, even though it is tempting to stop once the symptoms go away.
If you experience frequent tonsillitis, or your tonsillitis does not respond to treatment, you may need to have surgery to remove your tonsils. This procedure is called a tonsillectomy. It can be performed as an outpatient procedure and usually only takes one to two weeks for patients to fully recover.