Definition: what is tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is a mild inflammation of the throat. The mucous that lines the tonsils and the larynx is particularly red after infection which is how it differs from strep throat.
There are two types of tonsillitis. Erythematous tonsillitis, or catarrhal tonsillitis, mostly affects children under the age of 10. In some exceptional cases, it can get worse and become a peritonsillar abscess. Either a susceptible abscess could a trimus, or a contraction of muscles used to chew could cause a blockage in the jaw.
Strep throat is more dangerous because it can lead to acute articular rheumatism, a rare disease that affects the uper airways. What’s more, an inflammation of the tonsils can also cause vomiting and headaches. It can also cause numerous complications around the kidneys, the joints and the heart.
Causes of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is most often from a viral source. It could be a consequence of another infectious disease such as the measles, rubella or scarlet fever. In this case, it is only one symptom among others.
Certain bacteria can also be responsible for tonsillitis appearing. The most common is beta-hemolytic group A streptococcus (GAS) but it could also be staphylococcus, meningococcus or pneumococcus. Being caused by bacteria is much rarer but the consequences are much worse.
It is imperative to take the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) in order to determine the cause of the tonsillitis and to therefore treat it properly. This involves examining the cells that are gathered around the tonsils by taking a swab.
Symptoms of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis starts by a reddening around the tonsils and pharynx as well as mild pains in the throat, especially when swallowing.
Patients also often experience fevers, headaches, a swelling of the throat glands and a cough.
Treatment: how to care for tonsillitis
Treating tonsillitis depends on the cause of the infection. When it is due to a viral cause, symptoms disappear on their own after a few days. Treatment is therefore symptomatic. They include antipyretics for the fever and painkillers for the pains.
An antibiotic therapy is also necessary when tonsillitis is due to a strain of bacteria. It is important to continue treatment to the end of the course, to avoid symptoms returning and contaminating others around you.