Early Tonsillitis Symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from early symptoms of a cold or flu. Headache, sore throat and minor discomfort when swallowing are all early symptoms of both a cold and tonsillitis. So, how do you know if you are developing tonsillitis, or your sore throat is caused by cold, flu or some other similar infection? Well, let's take a closer look at the main tonsillitis symptoms. But first, it is useful to quickly define what causes tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis Explained

Your tonsils are two masses of tissue at the back of your throat. When this tissue becomes infected (usually as a result of bacterial or viral infection) these masses swell and become red and inflamed. This generally causes moderate to extreme discomfort when talking or swallowing. This condition is called "tonsillitis". If you suspect you have tonsillitis symptoms, your next step should be to visit your doctor. Your doctor is the best person to confirm if you have tonsillitis or the symptoms are caused by some other infection / condition. 


Tonsillitis Symptoms

Early Symptoms

Initial symptoms of tonsillitis are generally difficult to distinguish from sore throats caused by a cold i.e. early onset of both include the onset of a sore throat. Early tonsillitis symptoms include:

    • sore throat

    • minor discomfort / difficulty in swallowing

    • red / slightly inflamed tonsils


Intermediate Symptoms

If the tonsillitis infection progresses, the symptoms of tonsillitis can become more distressing. If you are still unsure as to whether your sore throat is due to a cold or tonsillitis, there are two easy ways to tell the difference:

1. Check with your doctor - they can do a throat swab to test for tonsil infection.

2. Look at the tonsils - have a loved one check your throat. Tonsillitis sufferers will often have a white coating or white / yellow spots on their tonsils. There will also be noticeable, unusual redness and swelling.

Typically, if your sore throat is due to a cold rather than tonsillitis, the pain and inflammation will subside when the cold does. Sore throats caused by colds are also typically experienced with other cold symptoms such as nasal congestion.  Nasal congestion may not be experienced by a tonsillitis sufferer. As your tonsillitis infection worsens, the throat will become more painful, and swallowing may become a major discomfort. The following tonsillitis symptoms may also be experienced in addition to the above:

    • temperature or fever

    • fatigue and headache

    • tonsils become very swollen

    • inability to swallow due to pain

    • more severe throat discomfort than a 'regular' sore throat

    • loss of appetite

    • swollen lymph nodes in neck

Severe Tonsillitis Symptoms

In severe cases of tonsillitis, sufferers may have a pus-filled abscess next to the tonsils in addition to the above. If your symptoms have developed to this stage, you should seek medical advice immediately, as there is a chance the infection could spread, or you may have a more serious bacterial infection.

Generally, your body can fight a bout of tonsillitis, but in more aggressive cases, antibiotics may be necessary. Patients who have recurring bouts of tonsillitis, or whose tonsillitis symptoms do not lessen after treatment prescribed by your doctor, may need a 'tonsillectomy'. This is surgical removal of the tonsils to prevent future infection. The tonsils can generally be removed by qualified health professionals without major adverse effect.