What is bacterial tonsillitis, how to get it and treatment

Bacterial tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, which are structures located in the throat, caused by bacteria usually of the genus  Streptococcus . This inflammation usually causes fever, sore throat and difficulty swallowing, which leads to loss of appetite.

The diagnosis of bacterial tonsillitis is made by the doctor based on the symptoms and observation of the throat, but a microbiological examination may also be ordered to identify the species of bacteria that is causing the tonsillitis and, thus, it will be possible to indicate the best antibiotic, which is the most used type of treatment.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms that can arise with bacterial tonsillitis are:

  • Severe sore throat;
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • High fever;
  • Chills;
  • White spots in the throat (pus);
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Headache;
  • Swelling of the tonsils.

Bacterial tonsillitis can happen at any age, but it is more common in children. In addition, it is easier to happen in people who have a compromised immune system, since it is an opportunistic infection.

How to confirm the diagnosis

In most cases, the diagnosis is clinical, that is, bacterial tonsillitis is identified only with the assessment of symptoms and observation of the throat in the office. However, there are also cases in which the doctor may order a microbiological examination to understand which bacterium is causing the infection in the tonsils, better adapting the treatment.

How to get tonsillitis

Bacterial tonsillitis is usually transmitted when you breathe in droplets, from coughing or sneezing, infected with bacteria that end up lodging in your tonsils, develop and cause infection. 

However, you can also get tonsillitis when you touch a contaminated object, such as a door handle, for example, and then move your nose or mouth, without washing your hands first. This is why tonsillitis is more common in children, as they are more likely to put dirty hands in their mouths, for example.

How the treatment is done

The treatment of bacterial tonsillitis is almost always done with the use of a broad spectrum antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, which eliminates excess bacteria. This antibiotic can be indicated by the doctor only with the evaluation and observation of the signs and symptoms and, normally, there is an improvement of the condition in up to 3 to 5 days after the beginning of the treatment.

However, if the symptoms do not improve, or if there is a worsening, the doctor may order a microbiological examination to understand what type of bacteria is in the tonsils, appropriate treatment to use the most specific antibiotic and indicated for the type of bacteria identified.

In more chronic cases, when bacterial tonsillitis persists for more than three months or is recurrent, removal of the tonsils may be indicated. See how tonsillitis surgery is performed 

It is important to perform tonsillitis treatment as directed by the doctor to avoid complications, such as abscesses and rheumatic fever, for example. Find out what it is, how to identify and treat rheumatic fever.

Homemade treatment options

Home treatment options should always be used as a supplement to the treatment indicated by the doctor and never as a replacement. Likewise, you should also inform the doctor about the use of any home remedy, as it may end up interfering with the antibiotic’s functioning.

However, a treatment that can almost always be used to help relieve symptoms during treatment with the antibiotic is gargling with warm water and salt, 2 to 3 times a day. See other  home remedies for tonsillitis.

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