Signs And Symptoms Of Tonsillitis To Watch For

symptoms of tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is one of the most common illnesses among children, teens, and young adults. Unfortunately, a lot of the symptoms of tonsillitis can be confused for a cough or flu and left untreated. So how do you spot the signs? Whether you’re reeling from inflamed tonsils due to a viral or bacterial infection, it is possible to identify the problem – just watch for early signs and get treated before it becomes too painful to bear!

Inflammation Of The Tonsils With Classic Symptoms

Located at the rear of your throat, your tonsils are soldiers in your body’s lymphatic system, helping rid the body of infection and maintaining the delicate balance of body fluids. They act as traps for germs that enter the body via the nose and mouth, drawing them in and preventing them from spreading to other parts of the body where they might cause more damage. Tonsillitis strikes when your tonsils are inflamed, causing them to swell up. The result is a host of classic tonsillitis symptoms that you can learn to spot quite easily. If you have young kids at home, this is something you’ll soon be quite adept at because they’re especially prone to the problem!1


Sore Throat

[pullquote]If a sore throat is moderate to severe and doesn’t go away after a couple of days, watch for other signs of inflammation of the tonsils.[/pullquote]

You might first notice your tonsillitis because of a sore throat. Because this sore throat is often brought on by the streptococcus bacteria, it’s often called a “strep throat.” You will typically be given antibiotics to treat the problem. If the doctor finds that your tonsillitis is due to a virus, you won’t need antibiotics, but it helps to drink lots of water, rest your voice, and take a mild over-the-counter painkiller if you’re troubled by the pain or soreness.2


Muffled Or Hoarse Voice

Besides the sore throat, if your tonsils are really swollen and obstruct the throat, your voice tends to change a little. A muffled voice or one that is hoarse is not uncommon. Some people complain of losing their voice altogether for a bit. Acute tonsillitis doesn’t normally cause as severe a change in voice as other conditions like a pus-filled abscess in the tonsils due to untreated tonsillitis.3

Painful, Swollen, Red Tonsils

When bacteria and viruses overwhelm the tissue of the tonsils, they become inflamed. And inflamed tonsils tend to swell up as a result of this and are usually painful. Your tonsils, if examined by you or your doctor, will typically be reddish.4



An earache is also a common symptom of tonsillitis. If your tonsils become enlarged, you could also have recurrent ear infections. Are you also finding it hard or painful to swallow? Is your throat sore? If you do have these problems, that earache could well be the result of a throat infection like tonsillitis.5

White Patches On Tonsils

Your tonsils develop a white or yellowish white coating when you have tonsilitis. In some cases, the tonsils could also have white pus-filled spots.6


Fever Of Over 100.4℉

Tonsillitis is caused by an underlying infection, whether viral or bacterial. Because your body is fighting off the microbes, it can bring on a fever. If you detect a high fever of over 100.4℉ along with other respiratory symptoms, it may indicate a viral inflammation of the tonsils.7 If the fever is sudden and the tonsils are swollen, but you don’t have any other signs of an upper respiratory tract infection, you may have bacterial tonsil trouble.8

Bad Breath

Whether you have acute tonsillitis or chronic tonsillitis, you should watch for signs of bad breath. The foul breath can become an ongoing issue if you have chronic tonsillitis and may lead to halitosis or persistent bad breath. Bacteria that cause tonsillitis thrive on the mucus produced due to the infection and bring about that unpleasant stink.9


Trouble Swallowing

When you have a case of acute tonsillitis, you may experience some issues with swallowing. Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, as well as odynophagia or experiencing pain when you swallow, are common complaints.10


If you don’t take care to keep up your intake of fluids and water, you could end up dehydrated from tonsillitis. Watch for signs of dehydration like urinating less often than you usually do or a tongue and mouth that feel dry and parched.11


Spots (Palatal Petechiae) Due To Bacteria-Linked Tonsillitis

Strep throat caused by bacteria may also cause you a break-out of tiny red hemorrhagic spots called petechiae on your soft palate. They may be as tiny as a pinpoint or as large as a pinhead.12

Breathing Through The Mouth

If you notice yourself breathing through your mouth, it may be because your tonsils are swollen from infection. While open mouth breathing may also occur due to a blocked nose, you need to consider the possibility of obstructive tonsillar enlargement.13


Flu-Like Symptoms Of Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is often mistaken for flu, especially since so many symptoms are similar. For instance, you may have a runny nose, a sore throat, and watery eyes from your tonsillitis. Many cases of tonsillitis are preceded by all of these symptoms before the tonsils themselves become noticeably swollen or inflamed or develop pus-filled spots.14

Symptoms Of Tonsillitis In Younger Children

Tonsillitis tends to usually occur only in children over two, with tonsillitis of viral origins being more common among younger children. Bacterial tonsillitis caused by the Streptococcus species tends to be more prevalent in 5 to 15 year olds.15 Here are some symptoms to look out for in younger children16 17:

  • Sore throat lasting over two days
  • Pain or any difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness
  • Feeling very sick
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Being unusually fussy

In case your child has trouble breathing, is drooling excessively, or is experiencing a lot of pain or trouble with swallowing, you should take them to the doctor as soon as possible.18