Tonsillitis | Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Red or swollen tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of voice (called laryngitis)
  • In children, abdominal pain (generally occurs when the tonsillitis is caused by strep bacteria)

If your tonsils become very swollen, you may also notice other symptoms. These may include sleep apnea (when breathing stops briefly during sleep), trouble swallowing food and a “throaty” voice.

When should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor if your child has a sore throat that won’t go away (even without a fever), if your child seems extremely ill, or if he or she is having trouble breathing or swallowing.

If you’re an adult who has symptoms of tonsillitis, you should contact your doctor, especially if you have one or more of the following:

  • A sore throat that lasts longer than two days (with or without abdominal pain)
  • A fever above 103°F
  • A stiff neck
  • Weakness

An adult or child who can’t breathe or who begins drooling because he or she can’t swallow should get emergency care right away.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 08/09

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