Tonsillitis is an umbrella term for inflammation of the tonsils caused by a virus or bacterial infection. A lot of conditions can cause inflammation, from the common cold to the flu to strep throat.
What Causes Tonsillitis?
“Strep throat is a common cause of tonsillitis, but it’s not the only cause,” explained Kara Meister, head and neck surgeon at Stanford Children’s Health in an interview with TODAY. “There’s a misconception that tonsillitis and strep throat are synonymous terms. This isn’t true.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rhinovirus causes colds, influenza virus causes the flu and streptococcus A causes strep throat – any of which could be accompanied by a diagnosis of tonsillitis due to inflammation in the back of the throat.
It’s important to know what’s causing your tonsillitis in order to know what treatment is appropriate.
Importance of Treatment
A throat swab can determine whether the cause of tonsillitis is a viral or bacterial infection.
Untreated bacterial infections can be serious; they can cause abscesses that must be drained or surgically removed.
Untreated strep can cause rheumatic fever, which can cause heart damage by compromising pumping capacity, post-streptoccoccal glomerulonephritis (PSGN), which affects the kidneys, and pneumococcal disease, which targets the lungs and sinuses, as well as lead to meningitis.
If you have a high fever and throat pain severe enough you can’t swallow liquids or turn your neck, it is time to go to the doctor for a throat culture.
To prevent the spread of germs, you should never share cups, water bottles or straws. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water frequently to decrease the chance of getting sick.
It is also helpful to keep the immune system strong through a healthy diet. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water and getting a full eight hours of sleep can all help. Taking a daily vitamin C supplement can also give your immune system a boost, especially during flu season.
For more information about tonsillitis or to schedule an appointment with an expert ENT physician, call ENT of Georgia today!