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Tonsillitis - Symptoms

Tonsillitis most commonly affects children between preschool and mid-teenage years.

Common signs and symptoms of tonsillitis are as follows:

  • red, swollen tonsils
  • white or yellow coating on tonsils
  • patches on tonsils
  • sore throat
  • pain while swallowing
  • fever
  • an itchy throat or a muffled voice
  • bad breath
  • headache
  • enlarged, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • possible irritability or a poor appetite among children too young to express themselves

There are two types of tonsillitis:

  1. recurrent tonsillitis, in which multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis occur in a year, with each episode lasting for 4 to 10 days.
  2. chronic tonsillitis, in which episodes last longer than acute tonsillitis, with other symptoms like chronic sore throat, bad breath and tender lymph nodes in the neck.


  • A middle ear infection (otitis media) - where fluid between the eardrum and inner ear gets infected by bacteria
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disrupted breathing during sleep (obstructive sleep apnoea)
  • Infection that spreads deep into the surrounding tissue (tonsillar cellulitis)
  • Infection that results in a collection of pus behind a tonsil (peritonsillar abscess)

If tonsillitis is caused by group A streptococcus, the child has an increased risk of rare problems such as rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disorder that affects the heart, joints and other tissues; or an inflammatory disorder of the kidneys that results in inadequate removal of waste and excess fluids from blood.