Tonsils are part of the body's natural immune system and are comprised of soft glandular tissue located on the sides of the throat. When the tonsils become infected, that condition is known as tonsillitis. Tonsillitis can be spread from one person to another through physical contact or by way of minuscule droplets of saliva that are released into the air when an infected patient coughs or sneezes. People suffering from tonsillitis should take care to practice good hygiene and prevent the spread of infection.
A sore throat is the primary symptom of tonsillitis. Patients may also suffer from a persistent cough. Fever is part of the body's natural reaction to infection, and tonsillitis is often accompanied by a high temperature and/or headaches. In addition to an overall sense of illness and fatigue, many patients report pain while swallowing and the presence of swollen neck glands. Some are able to see white spots at the back of their throat. Some people will never experience tonsillitis during their lifetime, while others will be plagued by the condition, especially during their younger years.
Before a course of treatment is determined, it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis of the cause of throat pain. A physician can usually determine whether tonsillitis is present by visual inspection of the tonsils as well as by gathering information about the patient's symptoms. Antibiotics are rarely used to treat tonsillitis, as many tonsil infections are the result of viruses and not bacteria. Treatment usually consists of taking preventative measures to protect against dehydration and making use of over-the-counter or prescription medication to alleviate pain until the infection clears up. Some people experience recurring tonsillitis and will require a surgical procedure to remove their tonsils. Medical advancements have made tonsillectomy a relatively simple procedure with few adverse side effects and a low risk of complication.
When a child suffers from recurrent tonsillitis, a tonsillectomy, or the surgical removal of the tonsils (two oval-shaped pads located in the back of the throat on each side) could be the best treatment option. Tonsillectomies often reduce the occurrence of throat infections in the future and as well as remove the most current infection. In some cases, a tonsillectomy is performed if tonsils are so enlarged they impede breathing or swallowing. This procedure is much more common for children than for adults.