Spotting the Warning Signs of Tonsillitis

Everyone gets a sore throat now and then. Maybe you strained your vocal cords while cheering on your favorite sports team a little too loudly. Or perhaps your seasonal allergies or a cold gave you postnasal drip that’s irritating the tissues in your throat. A persistent cough can wreak havoc as well. But none of these necessarily qualifies as tonsillitis. So how do you know when a sore throat has progressed to something worse?

At Petoskey Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists, our board-certified otolaryngologists Melissa Somers, MD, and Marc Feeley, MD, specialize in diagnosing and treating tonsillitis and can help you understand what to look for and when to seek medical assistance. 

We’ve been helping our neighbors in Gaylord and Petoskey, Michigan, with their ear, nose, and throat illnesses for years, and we welcome patients of all ages, from newborns to seniors. If you’re experiencing an acute problem, just give us a call; we can often take you in that same day.

If you or your child has had a sore throat for a few days and it won’t seem to go away, it could be tonsillitis. Here are some signs you can look for.

Swollen tonsils

Before you can check to see if your tonsils are swollen, you have to know what and where your tonsils are, so here’s a quick anatomy lesson.

Everyone has two tonsils located in the back of their throat. They look like oval pads on either side of the upper back of your throat. If you open wide and look in the mirror, you should be able to see them. These two seemingly useless blobs are actually your body’s first line of defense against viruses and bacteria that are seeking entry into your system, which is why they’re vulnerable to infection.

Children are especially susceptible. Because kids come into contact with so many germs on the playground and in the classroom, their tonsils work overtime to keep diseases at bay. After puberty, tonsils lose some of their germ-fighting powers, as adults’ immune systems develop to their full potential and are able to handle the job. This accounts for the fact that adults only rarely get tonsillitis.

If you look in your child’s throat and see that their tonsils are red and inflamed, it’s likely tonsillitis. 

You can blame either bacteria or a virus for the infection, but it’s important to come see us right away so we can determine which it is and treat it properly. 

It hurts to swallow and talk

Any kind of sore throat makes talking and swallowing uncomfortable, but tonsillitis takes it to the next level. Those swollen ovals crowd the space at the back of your throat and make it difficult to pass food down the chute. The infection also makes your tonsils sensitive, which means that swallowing and talking and anything that touches them or makes them move is going to hurt. 

Headache and fever

With a cold or flu, you may or may not have a fever, but with tonsillitis, it’s a classic sign of the infection that’s invaded your throat. 

Bad breath

Another telltale sign of tonsillitis is halitosis, or bad breath. That’s because the bacteria hanging out in your throat stink. Until you get rid of the malodorous germs, you’ll be exhaling some fairly foul air. 

Swollen glands

One of the common tests our team performs when we think you might have tonsillitis is to feel the glands in your neck and under your chin. If these are swollen, there’s a good chance you have more than just allergies or a strained voice. 

Why see a doctor for tonsillitis?

Unlike a garden variety sore throat that stems from irritation to the tissues, tonsillitis is an infection that can lead to other problems if you don’t see a doctor.

Left untreated, tonsillitis can become a chronic condition that leads to:

If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial strain of streptococcus, and you don’t seek medical help, it could lead to serious complications, such as:

You can prevent many cases of tonsillitis, and most can be treated before they endanger your overall health. If you or your child has any of the common symptoms of tonsillitis, call us immediately at Petoskey Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists or request an appointment online so we can get you started on the right treatment.

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