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Inflamed Tonsils

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What are Inflamed Tonsils?

This is just another way of telling someone that they have tonsillitis. Your tonsils are part of your immune system and are located in your throat. They are responsible for absorbing infections that are cause by microorganisms to prevent them from going deeper inside your body.

Although they are helping keep your body from becoming infected by these microorganisms your tonsils become infected themselves from absorbing the virus or bacteria they were keeping out of the rest of your body. When this happens your tonsils become inflamed. Anyone of any age, race, or gender can get inflamed tonsils with one exception. It is not common for children age two and under to suffer from inflamed tonsils.

Inflamed tonsils are divided into three categories, which are:

  • Acute inflamed tonsils – this condition will last four to six days and is caused by a specific virus or bacteria. This type commonly affects children from five to ten years of age.
  • Chronic inflamed tonsils – this is a persistent form of inflamed tonsils that may cause very small stone formation and can also lead to your tonsils becoming enlarged and can make you feel like you have something caught in your throat or having a feeling of a full throat. Many times this will cause a person to have bad breath no matter what they do. You may also have voice hoarseness. This type is hard to cure because it does not seem to be responsive to treatment.
  • Recurrent inflamed tonsils – a person is diagnosed as having this type of inflamed tonsils when they have a history of having it many times in a year’s time. These frequent episodes can lead to changes in your lymphoid tissues. This can cause them to lose their significant function of defending your body from infections.

Inflamed Tonsils Symptoms

When a person has inflamed tonsils, or tonsillitis, they may have all or some of the following symptoms.

  • Swelling and redness of your tonsils
  • Your swollen tonsils have white spots
  • You may also have a sore throat that is accompanied with swollen tonsils and the pain radiates to your ear.
  • You may have chills or fever
  • If your inflamed tonsils is a severe case you will usually lose your voice which is called laryngitis.
  • When children have inflamed tonsils they often experience abdominal pain.
  • Having a headache
  • Your lymph nodes/gender glands that are present in your neck and jaw are often enlarged
  • Having a cough
  • Having muscles that ache

Causes of Inflamed Tonsils

Although they are helping keep your body from becoming infected by these microorganisms your tonsils become infected themselves from absorbing the virus or bacteria they were keeping out of the rest of your body. This is what causes your tonsils to become inflamed.

Inflamed tonsils can also be transmitted through direct contact with another person who has the infection. It is transmitted from the droplets in the air from someone coughing or sneezing. In other cases inflamed tonsils is caused an underlying mouth condition like mouth ulcers.


In most cases of inflamed tonsils you will go see your physician and get a prescription for antibiotics along with following home care measures. If your tonsils are not that inflamed you may be able to let them heal on their own without going to your physician for antibiotics. There are certain health complications where you do need to seek medical care even if it is not a serious case of tonsillitis.


Some of these health complications include:

  • Suffering from dehydration because it hurts too much to swallow anything
  • Kidney failure
  • Rheumatic fever

You should also seek medical care if your symptoms become worse or you develop new symptoms or the sore throat you have has lasted longer than two days.

It does not matter if you are or are not taking antibiotics there are some home care things that can do when you have inflamed tonsils, which are:

  • Using warm salt water to gargle with three times a day.
  • Make sure that you are drinking a lot of fluids to help prevent dehydration even if it hurts to swallow.
  • To help with the pain of inflamed tonsils take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Make sure that you rest your throat and avoid talking as much as possible.

If you see a physician for your inflamed tonsils and it is determined that it is a bacterial infection your will be give a prescription for antibiotics which you will take for ten days. If your inflamed tonsils are caused by a virus you will not be given antibiotics because they do not work on viral infections.

If you have recurrent infections your physician may decide to perform a tonsillectomy, which is removing your tonsils. There are three criteria that must be met before they will consider removing your tonsils.

  • In one year having five episodes or more
  • For two years you have three or more episodes each year
  • If the infections do not respond to treatment.

Inflamed Tonsils Pictures

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