Adult Tonsillitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

The tonsils are situated at the back of the throat, one on each side and two in total. They are made of glandular (lymphatic) tissues, and look like two small pads. Their main role is to protect your mouth from bacteria by creating white blood cells and antibodies that attack germs entering your mouth.

Tonsillitis occurs when bacteria or viruses infect the tonsils, causing them to become inflamed. This condition can affect anyone: although tonsillitis is more common in children, tonsillitis among adults is not uncommon.

What Causes Adult Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. The condition can be caught by breathing into infected viral or bacterial droplets, which can be expelled from an infected person via a sneeze or a caught. It is also possible for other methods of contact to spread the infection.

There have also been cases of tonsillitis which have had fungal or parasitic causes. The most common causes are the viruses Epstein-Barr, and adenovirus. If tonsillitis is caused by Group A streptococcal bacteria, then it is often referred to as "strep throat."

What Are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis in Adults?

There are many symptoms that are caused by tonsillitis which can also be attributed to other conditions.If you experience any of the symptoms below, ensure to speak with your health care professional.

1. Tonsil-Related Symptoms

Tonsillitis causes the tonsils to become inflamed, which leads to many physical changes that can be noted as symptoms of the condition. The tonsils may be swollen, and it is often the case that the lymph nodes also become inflamed and firm. If the tonsils have white spots on them, your tonsillitis may be caused by a bacterial infection.

2. Throat-Related Symptoms

The most common symptom of tonsillitis experienced by many is a sore throat, which can also include difficulty and pain when swallowing. It is also possible for sever tonsillitis to develop into a mild case of laryngitis, which can lead to a scratchy throat or potentially the inability to speak.

3. Flu-Like Symptoms

Due to the nature of the condition, and the bacterial or viral cause of tonsillitis, it is common for those infected to experience flu-like symptoms. These can include fevers, headaches, ear aches or body aches.

How to Treat Tonsillitis in Adults

The treatment for tonsillitis varies, from doing nothing at one end of the spectrum, to surgical removal of the tonsils at the other. It is possible for tonsillitis to go away on its own when caused by a virus, but other treatments may also be required. Below are the treatments currently used for adults suffering with tonsillitis.

1. Home Remedies

Home remedies, or home care strategies, are the only method of treatment used when tonsillitis is caused by a viral infection. These treatments are to ease the symptoms and to speed up the recovery. Some at home strategies that have helped those experiencing symptoms are

  • Rest – Ensure to get plenty of rest and avoid any strenuous physical activity. Also make sure you get plenty of sleep.
  • Hydrate – Ensure to remain hydrated and drink lots of water.
  • Diet – Avoid spicy, acidic, and hard, rough foods during the recovery. Drink clear fluids and broths. Ices can also help to ease a sore throat.
  • Gargle Saltwater – If you can, gargle water mixed with salt to ease a sore throat. Mix about one teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water, gargle and spit out. Ensure you do not swallow it.
  • Control Air Humidity – If the air around you is dry, then this can worsen the symptoms. Use a cool-air humidifier to humidify the dry air.
  • Avoid Irritating Substances – Avoid irritants such as cleaning chemicals and smoke.
  • Medication – Medication that can be bought over the counter, such as ibuprofen, can be used to ease the discomfort of tonsillitis.

You can also watch the video below to try some natural home remedies to ease the symptoms of tonsillitis.

2. Drugs

If the cause of tonsillitis in adults is discovered to be bacterial, then your health care professional will prescribe a course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection for you. The most common treatment is penicillin taken orally. It is very important to take the medication as directed by your doctor. This means, continuing the treatment even if the symptoms dissipate.Failure to do so can cause the bacterial infection to come back again. It is also important not to take more than suggested at one time, as this could also lead to further complications.

3. Surgery

If other treatment methods have been deemed to be ineffective, then surgery is the final solution. Surgery will be suggested for those with chronic or bacterial tonsillitis that do not respond to antibacterial treatment. Surgery will also be suggested to those who have frequently occurring tonsillitis. If the symptoms of a patient's tonsillitis make their life unmanageable, then surgery will be suggested immediately. This includes if a patient is having trouble breathing or eating. The surgery, also known as a tonsillectomy, usually takes around an hour and generally requires no overnight stay at the hospital. The recovery time varies from five to ten days.

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