Tonsillitis involves a swelling of the tonsils, so the most apparent symptom of tonsillitis is a sore, swollen throat. Your tonsils may also look red.
Other tonsillitis symptoms include:
Pain when you swallow
A high temperature
With more severe tonsillitis, you might have:
Swollen glands that you can feel by touching the outside of your neck
White spots filled with pus on your tonsils
Is tonsillitis contagious?
The cold, flu virus, or bacterial infection that causes tonsillitis is contagious. If you or your child have tonsillitis:
Stay home from work or school until the symptoms get better
Use tissues to catch coughs or sneezes, and flush them in the toilet or throw them away properly
Wash your hands often
There isn’t a treatment for viral tonsillitis, but there are ways you can make yourself feel better while you have it:
Get lots of rest while you have tonsillitis symptoms
Drink lots of cool drinks to soothe your sore throat
Gargle with warm salt water (adults only – children shouldn’t do this in case they swallow it)
Take paracetamol or ibuprofen
Eat ice lollies
Suck lozenges or use throat spray
If you have bacterial tonsillitis, a GP might prescribe antibiotics.
When to talk to a GP about tonsillitis
If you have white spots on your tonsils or your throat is so sore that it’s hard to swallow food or drink, speak to a GP.
You should also talk to them if you have tonsillitis symptoms for longer than 4 days. They might want to do a swab test to check for bacterial tonsillitis or a blood test to check for glandular fever.
Complications of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis doesn’t usually cause complications but can affect you more if you have a weakened immune system.
Some people get tonsillitis a lot, known as recurrent tonsillitis. A GP might recommend having your tonsils taken out (a tonsillectomy) if it’s making you miss lots of work or for a child who is missing lots of school. Children often grow out of getting tonsillitis as they get older, so a GP might recommend waiting to see if that happens.
If you have bacterial tonsillitis, you may get a build-up of pus (an abscess known as quinsy) trapped behind or around your tonsils. A GP will prescribe antibiotics and might recommend surgery to drain it. They may also refer you to a specialist to talk about having a tonsillectomy.
- Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont
Lead GP at Livi
- Last updated: