4 Common Causes Of Tonsillitis You Must Know

common causes of tonsillitis

A fussy child with a sore throat and high temperature is every parent’s nightmare, especially if it turns out to be tonsillitis. While less common, a case of adult tonsillitis is no fun either. Your tonsils, which are lymph nodes in the upper part of your throat and behind your mouth, help prevent infection by trapping and filtering out harmful germs before they can reach other parts of your body. Inflammation of your tonsils or tonsillitis can lead to trouble swallowing, coughing, headache, and earache. It usually resolves on its own in 3 to 4 days. You need to, however, see a doctor if your symptoms continue for longer than 4 days without improvement or you experience severe symptoms like trouble breathing or extreme pain that makes it difficult for you to eat or drink.1 So how do you get a bout of tonsillitis?

1. Viruses

The most common cause of tonsillitis is a viral infection. Viruses which cause this condition include:

  • Rhinoviruses, which are also responsible for the common cold
  • Influenza viruses, which also cause influenza
  • Parainfluenza viruses, which also cause conditions like croup and laryngitis
  • Enteroviruses, which can also lead to hand-foot-and-mouth disease, an illness common in small children that causes mouth ulcers and spots on the feet and hands
  • Adenoviruses, which commonly cause diarrhea
  • Rubeola virus, which is responsible for measles
  • Epstein-Barr virus, which also causes glandular fever. However, cases of tonsillitis caused by this virus are rare. If this virus is responsible, you’re likely to feel extremely ill and experience symptoms like swollen lymph glands in your throat, a sore throat, tiredness, and fever.2

2. Bacteria

Around 15% of infections in the tonsils are caused by bacteria.3 And though many kinds of bacteria can cause tonsillitis, group A streptococcus bacteria is the usual culprit. This is the same bacteria that cause strep throat.

Bacterial infections like rheumatic fever and diphtheria which were associated with tonsillitis in the past have become rare now as these infections are vaccinated against and medical treatments for them have improved significantly.4


3. Fungi And Parasites

Fungi and parasites can also cause tonsillitis but this is rare in people with healthy immune systems.5

4. Smoking

According to research, people who smoke may be more likely to encounter recurrent tonsillitis. Smoking reduces salivary flow, decreases the immunity provided by mucous, and affects the good bacterial balance (oral microflora) adversely. It is thought that unfavorable impact of smoking on these protective factors could lead to the development of more tonsillar infections.6


Tonsillitis Can Be Transmitted

Tonsillitis is usually caused by common viruses such as those that lead to the common cold or flu. And you can catch these viruses by coming in close contact with someone who’s infected. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, they expel millions of small respiratory droplets contaminated with the virus through their mouth and nose. Breathing in these droplets can transmit the infection to you. You can also catch the infection by touching a surface on which contaminated respiratory droplets have landed and then touching your face.7

Home Remedies For Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis may not require any treatment if you are not in pain or facing any other problems. Your doctor may do a swab test and antibiotics may be prescribed if your tonsillitis is caused by bacteria. And in case you have recurrent infections, a tonsillectomy, surgery to remove your tonsils, may also be advised. While over-the-counter medication can be useful in treating fever and pain, a few other tips can ease your discomfort. Do make sure that you do not use aspirin to treat children under the age of 16 as it has been linked to a dangerous condition known as Reye syndrome.8


Here’s what you can do at home for relief:

1. Eat Or Drink Something Cold

Having something cold can soothe an inflamed throat so suck on a frozen fruit pop or drink something cold to ease your sore throat.


2. Have Fluids

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Being dehydrated can worsen other symptoms like headaches.

3. Try A Salt Water Gargle

Mix half a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and use as a gargle to soothe your throat. But do keep in mind that this remedy might not be suitable for small children as they may swallow the gargle.