Skip to Content




is inflammation of your tonsils. Tonsils are the lumps of tissue on both sides of the back of your throat. Tonsils are part of your immune system. They help you fight infections. Tonsillitis is usually caused by bacteria or a virus. Recurrent tonsillitis is when you have tonsillitis many times in 1 year. Chronic tonsillitis is when you have a sore throat that lasts 3 months or longer.

Mouth Anatomy

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Severe sore throat
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever and chills
  • Bad breath
  • White spots on the tonsils

Call 911 for the following:

  • Trouble breathing because your tonsils are swollen

Treatment for tonsillitis

may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your tonsils. You may need surgery if you have chronic or recurrent tonsillitis. Surgery is also done if antibiotics are not getting rid of your tonsillitis.


when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

Drink liquids as directed:

You may need to drink more liquid than usual to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Gargle with warm salt water:

This may help decrease throat pain. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Ask how often you should do this.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.