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What is Viral Tonsillitis?

Viral tonsillitis is an infection causing inflammation of the tonsils, typically marked by a sore throat, fever, and swollen glands. It's most often caused by common viruses, such as the cold or flu. Accompanied by vivid images, our article breaks down symptoms, treatment, and prevention. How might understanding this condition better protect your health? Continue with us to find out.
K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

Viral tonsillitis is an infectious illness which causes inflammation of the tonsils. Unlike bacterial tonsillitis, it cannot be cured with antibiotics, but must be healed by the body’s natural defense system. The infection is a congestion characterized by a sore throat, fever, and swollen tonsils. It is most commonly contracted by children.

Some of the viruses that can cause tonsillitis include adenovirus, influenza, and Epstein Bar. In rare situations, the infection can also be caused by parasites or a fungus. The infection can be spread by coughs, sneezes, and bodily secretions. Symptoms of viral tonsillitis typically appear two to five days after the infection is contracted.

Frequent hand washing is a good way to prevent contraction of viral tonsillitis.
Frequent hand washing is a good way to prevent contraction of viral tonsillitis.

Though viral tonsillitis cannot be cured by medications, it can be made more bearable with medications for pain relief and reducing fever. General over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce discomfort. Drinking tea and gargling with warm salt water can also help to relieve throat pain. Throat lozenges and frozen foods can offer additional relief. Due to the risk of contracting Reye syndrome, individuals under twenty years old should not take aspirin to manage the symptoms of viral tonsillitis.

A common symptom of viral tonsillitis is swollen lymph nodes.
A common symptom of viral tonsillitis is swollen lymph nodes.

The most common symptom of viral tonsillitis is a sore throat. Other symptoms include a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and difficulty swallowing. The tonsils may become swollen, covered with patches, and filled with pus. Congestion of the nasal passages, abdominal pain, and headache are other common symptoms. Patients may also notice they have particularly bad breath.

A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.

Most mild viral tonsillitis infections will go away without medical treatment within two weeks. A mild infection tends to consist of symptoms of the common cold with a sore throat. More severe symptoms, such as a sudden high temperature and swollen lymph nodes, could be the sign of a serious infection and should be reported to a doctor.

The primary risk factor for contracting viral tonsillitis is contact with an infected individual. An obstructed nasal passageway can also be risky as it forces breathing through the mouth, which increases the risk of tonsillitis. Though there is no proven connection between cigarette smoke and viral tonsillitis, there is a higher incidence of tonsil removal among children who live with or are in regular contact with smokers.

Throat lozenges can help relieve throat pain.
Throat lozenges can help relieve throat pain.

Viral tonsillitis is best avoided with proper hygiene and vigilance. Staying away from infected individuals, regularly washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes are all effective. All surfaces in the home, office, and school should be kept clean and disinfected. It is also advisable to stay away from second-hand smoke.

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    • Frequent hand washing is a good way to prevent contraction of viral tonsillitis.
      By: Lasse Kristensen
      Frequent hand washing is a good way to prevent contraction of viral tonsillitis.
    • A common symptom of viral tonsillitis is swollen lymph nodes.
      By: Klaus Eppele
      A common symptom of viral tonsillitis is swollen lymph nodes.
    • A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
      By: Farina3000
      A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
    • Throat lozenges can help relieve throat pain.
      By: kostrez
      Throat lozenges can help relieve throat pain.
    • Viral tonsillitis patients may also notice they have particularly bad breath.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Viral tonsillitis patients may also notice they have particularly bad breath.
    • Children who live with smokers have a higher incidence of tonsil removal.
      By: ehabeljean
      Children who live with smokers have a higher incidence of tonsil removal.