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Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the glands at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can involve other tissues, such as the adenoids and the lingual tonsils.

There are several types of tonsillitis:  acute, recurrent, chronic and peritonsillar abscess.


The symptoms you experience depend on the type of tonsillitis you have.

Acute or recurrent

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Snoring


  • Chronic sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Tender lymph nodes

Peritonsillar abscess

  • Severe throat pain
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Muffled voice quality


Tonsillitis is very common in childhood; nearly every child in the United States will experience at least one episode of tonsillitis.

The causes of tonsillitis are varied and can include:

  • The herpes simplex virus
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Adenovirus
  • Measles

Bacteria is the most common cause of pharyngotonsillitis, while streptococcus pyogenes is the cause of most bacterial tonsillitis (also known as strep throat).

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis of tonsillitis is made after a physical exam and a medical history review.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics, fluids and pain control. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

If the tonsillitis is chronic or recurrent, surgery to remove the tonsils is recommended.

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