Useful Information for Patients

Disclaimer The information contained within this brochure is for informative purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the Kenya Ear Nose and Throat Society on this specific subject, as treatment modalities may differ between specialists.


Tonsillitis is an infectious condition with symptoms characterized by inflamed tonsils, fever, painful swallowing, sore throat, and a slight voice change. Other tonsillitis symptoms include a white or yellow coating on the tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, headache and bad breath. Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain may occur in younger children. Throat infection (pharyngitis) often occurs along with tonsillitis. 

Tonsils are lymph glands or lymph nodes located at the back of the throat where they catch incoming germs before they enter the breathing passage. It is believed that tonsils fight infection in the body by filtering bacteria and other microorganisms. During this filtering process, however, the tonsils themselves may become infected. 

Children are particularly vulnerable to this kind of infection. It may be difficult to determine if a child has tonsillitis, so you should visit your physician when your child suffers from the common symptoms of infected tonsils. If tonsillitis attacks are frequent or severe, your pediatrician may suggest a tonsillectomy. 

Tonsillitis causes include viral infections such as the flu, the common cold, mononucleosis or herpes simplex. Streptococcus is the most common bacterial cause. Bacterial tonsillitis can be treated with antibiotics, but viral tonsillitis cannot. 

All forms of tonsillitis are contagious and generally spread from person to person in coughs, sneezes, and nasal fluids. 


Q. What are tonsils?
A. Tonsils are glands located on the right and left sides of the entrance to the throat. 

Q. What do tonsils do?
A. The role of the tonsils is to guard against infection. 

Q. What is tonsillitis?
A. Tonsillitis is an infectious condition of the tonsils. 

Q. What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?
A. Symptoms of tonsillitis include frequent throat and ear infections or obstructed breathing. 

Q. Who gets tonsillitis?
A. Though tonsillitis can occur at any age, seventy percent of the patients who have tonsillectomies are under 18. 

Q. Can tonsillitis be treated with antibiotics?
A. Antibiotics are frequently effective in treating tonsillitis; however, your physician may suggest a tonsillectomy if antibiotics are no longer combating the illness. 

Q. Is tonsillitis contagious?
A. Yes. All forms, bacterial or viral, are contagious. It usually spreads from person to person by contact with the throat or nasal fluids of someone who is already infected. 

Q. How can I avoid getting tonsillitis?
A. Wash your hands frequently and keep the infected person's eating utensils and drinking glasses away from yours. 

Q. How many times do you have to get tonsillitis before considering a tonsillectomy?
A. It is not possible to give an exact number of infections needed before a tonsillectomy should be considered because each person is different. However, general guidelines suggest that individuals who have five or more throat infections in one year would probably benefit from a tonsillectomy. 

Q. What is a tonsillectomy?
A. A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of tonsils, most often due to chronic infection. 

Q. Is the surgery painful?
A. The patient is under a general anesthetic during the surgical procedure. 

Q. How long does the patient have to stay in the hospital following a tonsillectomy?
A. Tonsillectomies are usually performed on an outpatient basis (does not require an overnight hospital stay). 
Q. Will a tonsillectomy eliminate sore throats?
A. Surgery will not eliminate throat infections, but will likely decrease the frequency of occurrence. 

Q. Are tonsillectomies rare?
A. surgical removal of the tonsils is one of the most frequently performed procedures of the throat. 

Q. When will my child be able to return to school?
A. Patients usually return to school after about one week, and vigorous physical activity may be resumed at that time also. However, you and your doctor should determine when your child is ready for normal activity.