Adult Tonsillitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

June 1, 2018

You might think that tonsillitis only occurs in children, but it can happen to adults as well; although the chances of this are comparatively bleak. Tonsils are a pair of small glands that are situated on either side of the throat. The main function of tonsils is to absorb all the germs that enter the mouth and prevent them from going further into the body and cause diseases. This immunity function of the tonsils is more prominent during childhood. That is why incidences of tonsillitis (infection in the tonsils) are more common among children than adults.

What causes tonsillitis in adults?

Since tonsils are meant to trap unwanted germs, this feature makes them more vulnerable to tonsillitis. Most of the times, tonsillitis is caused by viruses, especially the ones responsible for the common cold. Sometimes, it’s also caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes. Tonsillitis by itself is not contagious, but the viruses and bacteria that cause them are. They can be transmitted into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also happen by touching contaminated surfaces. That is why treating tonsillitis is necessary.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis in adults?


  • A sore throat


  • Difficulty and pain while swallowing
  • Croaky, muffled voice
  • The ache in the ears
  • Fever
  • Red and bloated tonsils
  • Stiff neck due to swollen lymph nodes
  • A cough and cold (especially when caused by a virus)
  • White puss –filled spots on the tonsils (especially when caused by a virus)



The symptoms are mild in the case of virus-induced tonsillitis and severe when caused by bacteria.

Normally, tonsillitis is not a serious condition and the symptoms wear-off in 4 to 6 days in case of viral tonsillitis and 7 to 14 days in case of bacterial tonsillitis. It’s not a fatal condition but sometimes leaving bacterial tonsillitis untreated can lead to further complications like Peritonsillar Abscess. This is a medical condition characterized by the accumulation of pus in such a manner that the infection spreads beyond the tonsils and into the neck and chest, thus blocking the respiratory tract.

What is the treatment for tonsillitis in adults?

The treatment process for tonsillitis includes:

  • Taking doctor-prescribed antibiotics (mainly for bacteria-induced tonsillitis, since antibiotics don’t work on viruses).
  • Getting enough rest. Relaxing helps your body focus on fighting the infection better.
  • Gargling with warm salty water. Mix half a teaspoon of salt with 250 ml of warm water and gargle twice a day till the symptoms are gone. It will soothe your inflamed tonsils and take care of a sore throat.
  • Avoiding smoking. It will only irritate your tonsils more and aggravate your symptoms.
  • Eating foods that are soft and require minimum chewing. This will ease out the pain while swallowing to a certain extent.
  • Indulging in some warm fluids that soothe the throat. Avoid beverages like tea and coffee that can cause dehydration.
  • Sucking on throat-friendly medicated lozenges.
  • Replacing your current brush with a new one, especially when the symptoms are gone, to avoid recurrence.

If the discomfort becomes too unbearable or if the symptoms don’t fade away after a week despite these measures, visit your doctor. Only in rare cases, the tonsils have to be removed through a minor surgery if the incidences of tonsillitis keep repeating quite often (more than 5 times in a year). That is why it’s always better to consult an ENT specialist at the onset itself. To get an appointment with the best otolaryngologists in your city, visit Apollo Spectra now.