Health Education

Is it Tonsillitis?

Cropped SingleCare logo By | February 2, 2016

We all get sore throats — but sometimes they’re more serious than just a tickle. There are as many symptoms as there are causes for your hoarse voice, and even more at-home remedies.

The scariest part of a sore throat is the way it manages to stretch our imaginations to their deepest, darkest places. The moment you get that first little tickle, you’re sure you’ve come down with strep in the best case, or maybe even diphtheria, or some new malady unknown to modern medicine in the worst. Here’s a quick overview of one of the most common ailments, its various causes, and the best ways to treat that sore throat.

Say Ahh

Portrait of girl suffering a cold and stuffy nose
JackF/Thinkstock

Not surprisingly, the symptoms of your sore throat vary depending on what causes it in the first place, according to Mayo Clinic. We’re all familiar with the pain or scratchiness that marks the beginning of a throat ache and the way that pain worsens with swallowing or talking. It can also make swallowing difficult — not only because of the discomfort, but also because of inflammation and swelling. Your throat may dry out and the glands in your neck and jaw may be swollen and tender.

If you open your mouth and look in the mirror you might notice white patches or pus on your tonsils in the back of your throat (often the most obvious sign of tonsillitis, as Mayo Clinic explains).

These symptoms may accompany other signs of illness, including fever and chills, coughing, a runny nose, sneezing, body aches or headaches, and nausea or vomiting. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve all been there. Sore throats are most commonly caused by cold and flu viruses — some of the most common illnesses that people may deal with annually — but they similarly accompany mono, measles, chickenpox, and croup cough in children.

Bacterial infections including strep, whooping cough, and diphtheria (a serious respiratory illness) will also cause soreness, as can allergies, straining of the vocal cords, pollution, or acid reflux. In other words, there are a lot of things that can make your throat sore. But there’s no reason to assume the worst.

Tonsillitis, while always terrible, is actually not just one disease. It’s the byproduct of a bacterial or even viral infection of the throat. And the symptoms are slightly different from just a raw throat. Inflamed tonsils tend to increase drastically in size, and the afflicted will certainly notice. Tonsillitis often causes pain and difficulty in swallowing, as well as a feeling of a closed throat. Also, tonsillitis comes with pain or difficulty opening one’s mouth.

Chicken Soup?

Women holds a cup of tea
Aksenovko/Thinkstock

Most of the time, sore throats do not require medical attention and there are a bevy of ways to soothe that ache at home, according to Health. Using anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or sodium naproxen is a great place to start, as is gargling warm salt water.

A warm cup of herbal tea can’t really be beat and it’s a great way to keep up on the fluids. Lozenges and cough syrup can also provide relief, and so too can marshmallow root, as the Daily Mail recommends. Teas and extract from the marshmallow root have been used for centuries to alleviate irritations and inflammations. A clinical trial in the early nineties even showed it was more effective than common cough syrups. But perhaps most important is good old-fashioned chicken soup and rest.

How Bad Is It, Doc?

There are, of course, times to go see a doctor, especially if the sore throat is recurring or doesn’t go away after a week. The same is true if you’re experiencing extreme difficulty swallowing, breathing, or opening your mouth, and if you have a high fever (over 101ºF) or joint pain. A rash, bloody saliva or phlegm, and a lump in your neck are also signs it’s time to seek care.

This can be difficult if you don’t have a doctor or lack health insurance — but there are great solutions out there. Members of SingleCare have an entire database of medical providers at their fingertips and pay only for the treatments they need. Even if it’s just a sore throat, SingleCare has you covered.

(Main image credit: Choreograph/Thinkstock)