What is amygdalitis?
Amygdalitis, also known as tonsillitis, is an inflammation of the tonsils, two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat — one tonsil on each side.
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by infection with a common virus, but bacterial infections also may cause tonsillitis.
Because appropriate treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause, it’s important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis. Surgery to remove tonsils, once a common procedure to treat tonsillitis, is usually performed only when bacterial tonsillitis occurs frequently, doesn’t respond to other treatments or causes serious complications.
How common is amygdalitis?
Amygdalitis is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of amygdalitis?
The common symptoms of amygdalitis are:
- Red, swollen tonsils
- White or yellow coating or patches on the tonsils
- Sore throat
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Enlarged, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
- A scratchy, muffled or throaty voice
- Bad breath
- Stomachache, particularly in younger children
- Stiff neck
In young children who are unable to describe how they feel, signs of tonsillitis may include:
- Drooling due to difficult or painful swallowing
- Refusal to eat
- Unusual fussiness
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- A sore throat that doesn’t go away within 24 to 48 hours
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- Extreme weakness, fatigue or fussiness
Get immediate care if your child has any of these symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme difficulty swallowing
What causes amygdalitis?
The tonsils are the immune system’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth. This function may make the tonsils particularly vulnerable to infection and inflammation. However, the tonsil’s immune system function declines after puberty – a factor that may account for the rare cases of amygdalitis in adults.
Amygdalitis is most often caused by common viruses, but bacterial infections can also be the cause. The most common bacterium causing tonsillitis is Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium that causes strep throat. Other strains of strep and other bacteria also may cause tonsillitis.
What increases my risk for amygdalitis?
There are many risk factors for amygdalitis, such as:
- Young age. Tonsillitis most often occurs in children, but rarely in those younger than age 2. Tonsillitis caused by bacteria is most common in children ages 5 to 15, while viral tonsillitis is more common in younger children.
- Frequent exposure to germs. School-age children are in close contact with their peers and frequently exposed to viruses or bacteria that can cause tonsillitis.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is amygdalitis diagnosed?
Your child’s doctor will start with a physical exam that will include:
- Using a lighted instrument to look at your child’s throat and likely his or her ears and nose, which may also be sites of infection
- Checking for a rash known as scarlatina, which is associated with some cases of strep throat
- Gently feeling (palpating) your child’s neck to check for swollen glands (lymph nodes)
- Listening to his or her breathing with a stethoscope
- Checking for enlargement of the spleen (for consideration of mononucleosis, which also inflames the tonsils)
Your doctor might also request some tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Throat swab: With this simple test, the doctor rubs a sterile swab over the back of your throat to get a sample of secretions.
- Complete blood cell count (CBC): Your doctor may order a CBC with a small sample of your blood.
How is amygdalitis treated?
If a virus is the expected be the cause, these strategies are the only treatment. Your doctor won’t prescribe antibiotics. You will likely be better within seven to 10 days.
If amygdalitis is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Penicillin taken by mouth for 10 days is the most common antibiotic treatment prescribed for tonsillitis caused by group A streptococcus.
Remember to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms go away completely. Not completing the full course of antibiotics can make the infection worse or spread to other parts of the body. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you forget to get a dose.
Surgery to remove the infected tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be used to treat frequently recurring amygdalitis. Frequent tonsillitis is generally defined as:
- More than seven episodes in one year
- More than four to five episodes a year in each of the preceding two years
- More than three episodes a year in each of the preceding three years
Except for certain diseases, children and teenagers should not take aspirin because when used to treat symptoms of cold or flu-like illnesses, it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage amygdalitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with amygdalitiss:
- Rest and get plenty of sleep.
- Drink a lot of water to keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration. Warm liquids — broth, caffeine-free tea or warm water with honey — and cold treats like ice pops can soothe a sore throat.
- Prepare a saltwater gargle.
- Use a cool-air humidifier to eliminate dry air that may further irritate a sore throat, or sit for several minutes in a steamy bathroom.
- Avoid irritants. Keep your home free from cigarette smoke and cleaning products that can irritate the throat.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Tonsillitis: Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatment. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156497.php. Accessed 19 Mar, 2017.
Tonsillitis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tonsillitis/basics/definition/con-20023538. Accessed 19 Mar, 2017.
Review Date: March 19, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019