Acute tonsillitis is an infection (which can be viral or bacterial) of the tonsils or tonsils, two small defense organs in the form of pads that are located in the back of the throat, one on each side.
The infection produces inflammation of these lymph nodes and, therefore, causes throat pain, fever, and difficulty swallowing food. It most often affects children and adolescents and can be transmitted through direct contact with saliva or contaminated objects, or indirectly through the air, through coughing and sneezing.
Although the infection causes discomfort for a period of three to five days, most patients recover completely with or without mediation. Only a small number of cases present serious complications, requiring medical intervention.
Causes of acute tonsillitis
The most common cause of acute tonsillitis is the infection of viruses such as adenovirus, flu virus, parainfluenza virus, Epstein-Barr virus, enterovirus, herpes simplex virus. It can also be caused by the infection of bacteria, especially in the case of adolescents and adults. The most commons are:
- Streptococcus pyogenes.
Tonsils are the first defense barrier that the immune system has against bacteria and viruses that enter through the mouth. Due to this function, these lymph nodes are susceptible to becoming inflamed and infected. Some factors that increase the risk of developing tonsillitis are:
- Introduce contaminated food or elements into the mouth.
- Have direct contact with an infected person.
- Have a weak immune system
- Be between 5 and 15 years old.
Symptoms of acute tonsillitis
Due to the large variety of microorganisms that can cause acute tonsillitis, it is difficult to accurately establish the incubation period from when the person becomes infected until it shows strong symptoms. In general, a patient with acute tonsillitis experiences:
- Sensitive and dilated glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.
- Stomach pain, especially in young children.
- White or yellow patches on the tonsils.
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing food.
- Tonsils red and inflamed.
- Changes in the tone of the voice.
- Neck stiffness.
- A sore throat.
- General discomfort.
The diagnosis of acute tonsillitis can be made with a pharyngeal sample. It is a medical examination that collects secretions from the back of the throat using a sterile, elongated swab. The sample is analyzed in the clinic or in a laboratory to detect streptococcal bacteria. This procedure is painless, although it can cause little nausea when the swab is inserted into the throat.
Complete blood count
The doctor may order a complete blood count with a small sample of blood. The result of this test allows you to determine if an infection is more likely to be caused by bacteria or a virus. Often, this test is not done to diagnose strep throat. However, if the test is negative, the complete blood count can determine the cause of tonsillitis.
Treatment of tonsillitis
For proper treatment of tonsillitis, it is important to know if it is of bacterial or viral origin. While acute tonsillitis caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotics, viral tonsillitis should be treated with home care.
If it is determined that the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe a series of antibiotics. Penicillin is often given orally for 8 or 10 days. However, if the patient is allergic to this drug, the professional will look for an alternative antibiotic.
Since viral tonsillitis is not treated with antibiotics, it is important to take into account some home care that can cope with symptoms and promote recovery. Of course, these measures can be applied regardless of the cause of the infection.
- Sleep well.
- Take rest.
- Humidify the air.
- Avoid the cigarette and its smoke.
- Prepare gargles with salt water.
- Avoid the manipulation of irritating chemicals.
- Use medicated pills for a sore throat.
- Drink plenty of fluids to lubricate the throat and avoid dehydration.
- Treat pain and fever (ask your doctor about the use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
Surgery to remove tonsils (tonsillectomy) is a measure taken when these lymph nodes become severely inflamed, compromising breathing and causing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. A tonsillectomy is also performed if tonsillitis becomes chronic, causing complications that do not respond to antibiotic treatment.