Tonsillitis is a common childhood illness but teenagers and adults can get it too.

Most children and adults get viral tonsillitis. This type has to run its course and antibiotics won't help. It usually goes away on its own after a few days.

Tonsillitis can feel like a bad cold or flu. The tonsils at the back of your throat will be red and swollen.

The main symptoms are:

  • a sore throat

  • difficulty swallowing

  • hoarse or no voice

  • a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above

  • coughing

  • headache

  • feeling sick

  • earache

  • feeling tired

Sometimes the symptoms can be more severe and include:

  • swollen painful glands in your neck – feels like a lump on the side of your neck

  • white pus-filled spots on your tonsils at the back of your throat

  • bad breath

Symptoms will usually go away after 3 to 4 days.

You may need to stay off work or keep your child at home until you or your child feel better.

You should:

  • use tissues when you cough or sneeze and throw them away after

  • wash your hands after coughing or sneezing

Tonsillitis usually has to run its course.

To help ease the symptoms:

  • get plenty of rest

  • drink cool drinks to soothe the throat

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen which are available without prescription

  • gargle with warm salty water - children should not try this

How to gargle with salty water

  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water – warm water helps salt dissolve.

  2. Gargle with the solution then spit it out – don't swallow it.

  3. Repeat as often as you like.

This is not suitable for younger children.

Speak to a pharmacist about tonsillitis. They can give advice and suggest treatments to ease a sore throat. Treatments can include lozenges, throat sprays and antiseptic solutions.

See a GP if:

  • you have white pus-filled spots on the tonsils at the back of your throat

  • the sore throat is so painful it's difficult to eat or drink

  • the symptoms don't go away after 4 days

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