The tonsils are a group of tissues behind and above your tongue, in the back of your throat, which trap germs and bacteria, preventing infection. Because of their constant exposure to germs, the tonsils themselves can occasionally become infected. Children are more likely than adults to suffer from a tonsil infection.
Symptoms of Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis, the medical term for a tonsil infection, is an inflammation of the tonsils that causes swelling, sore throat, and pain when swallowing. The tonsils will appear red and swollen, and may contain white or yellow patches. Additional symptoms include chills and fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, bad breath, change in the voice, and stiff neck. Children may display increased irritability and a refusal to eat, and may drool.
In their role as defenders of the immune system, the tonsils are exposed to a variety of germs on a daily basis. Viral and bacterial infections are the usual cause of tonsillitis, though allergies sometimes play a role, as well. One of the more common offenders is the streptococcus bacterium, associated with another condition called strep throat. After puberty, the tonsils begin to shrink in size, and their immune system role greatly diminishes.
Treating Tonsil Infections
If a tonsil infection is caused by a virus, it will clear up on its own once the infection has run its course, a process that usually takes 7 to 10 days. Home remedies are the most effective method of treatment; get rest, and stay hydrated by drinking lots of liquids, especially warm beverages like tea, or soup. A saltwater gargle several times a day can help relieve discomfort. Try cold treats like Popsicles, or suck on throat lozenges or cough drops, for additional relief. If the cause is bacterial in nature, antibiotics will be prescribed. Be sure to continue treatment until all your medicine is used up, in order to prevent the infection from recurring.
Chronic tonsil infections may require surgical removal in a process known as a tonsillectomy.