Is Tonsillitis Contagious? Causes, Symptoms & Home Remedies

What Is Tonsillitis?

There are two oval-shaped pads of tissues on the back of our throat, one on each side. These are known as tonsils. When the tonsils get inflamed, the afflicted person starts suffering from a condition known as tonsillitis. It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Sore throat.
  • Swollen tonsils.
  • Lymph nodes on the side of the neck would be swollen and tender as well.

Medical treatment for tonsillitis depends upon a lot of factors such as how the affliction responds to various home or OTC remedies and how frequently the person suffers from the affliction. Surgery to remove the tonsils is pretty common, but it should always be used as a last resort.

Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

Is Tonsillitus Contagious

The most common cause of tonsillitis is the bacterium Streptococcus progenies, although it may be caused by other strains of the same or different bacteria. The affliction can spread via direct contact. However, the good news is that the spread can easily be prevented with the help of some easy to follow common sense hygiene practices such as:

  • The afflicted person should be isolated from others till he recovers completely.
  • She should always cough or sneeze with her mouth fully covered.
  • No one should share or use the afflicted person’s personal items.

Bacterial tonsillitis may be contagious for 2 weeks if left untreated. If is is treated with antibiotics, the patient stops being contagious 48 hours after the medication is started.

If the onset of tonsillitis is due to a viral infection, the patient is usually contagious for about 7 – 10 days.

Causes: How Do You Get Tonsillitis?

Tonsils are the first line of defense against bacteria that enters our body through the throat; hence it is pretty common for the tonsils to get infected. However the immunological activities of the tonsils decrease significantly after puberty, hence cases of tonsillitis are most commonly seen in children from their pre-school years up to their mid-teenage years. Tonsillitis is highly uncommon among adults.

As mentioned earlier, tonsillitis is mainly caused by various strains of the Streptococcus bacteria. Such cases are known as bacterial tonsillitis. Other relatively common causes of tonsillitis are:

  • Adenovirus: This virus is also known to cause diarrhea.
  • Enterovirus: It also causes hand, foot and mouth disease.
  • Influenza virus
  • Parainfluenza virus: This also causes croup and laryngitis.
  • Rubeola virus: Also causes measles.


Following are the most common symptoms of tonsillitis:

  • Bad breath.
  • Difficulty swallowing, with every effort being extremely painful.
  • Sore throat.
  • The lymph nodes on either corner of the neck would be swollen and painful.
  • Fever and headache. Temperatures are usually greater than 100.4F (38C).
  • The tonsils themselves would be red and swollen and may have white or yellow patches on them. That is because these spots are filled with pus.
  • Stomachache, however this symptom is only common among children in their pre-school years.
  • Stiff neck.
  • The voice will sound really hoarse.
  • Pain in the ears.
  • Constant fatigue and other symptoms of general malaise.

Extremely young children find it difficult to express how they are feeling. However, the following signs may indicate that they may be suffering from tonsillitis:

  • Drooling, as they are unable to swallow the saliva because of the pain. They may refuse to eat as well!
  • They may seem to be really fussy. That is because they are feeling the effects of general malaise, which they are unable to express.

Home Remedies for Tonsillitis

Suffering from tonsillitis is one of the most common afflictions among children and not every case requires urgent medical attention or surgery. Most cases of this affliction can be easily taken care of with the help of the following home remedies:

  1. Rest

Our natural immunity is extremely adept at dealing with a wide variety of microorganisms that invade our body, including those that cause tonsillitis. Make sure that the sufferer rests aplenty and speaks as little as possible so that her natural immunity can fight the affliction.

  1. Fluids

The sufferer should drink plenty of fluids to keep the throat moist. There is a general aversion towards drinking anything because swallowing is really painful. However a dry throat will exacerbate the symptoms, hence it is imperative that the sufferer stays hydrated. Warm soup and broth should be provided in abundance. As the sufferer will find solid food to be next to impossible to swallow, soups and broth will not only keep the person hydrated, but will also be an important source of essential nutrients.

  1. Humidify the Air

There is only so much fluids that a person can possibly drink. However, if you live in a relatively dry climate, the throat of the afflicted person may still feel dry, irrespective of the amount of fluids they consume. Using a cool-air humidifier (like the kind used during the winter to get rid of static electricity) will raise the humidity of the room and will allow the throat of the sufferer to stay hydrated for extended periods of time.

  1. Lemon

Lemon can help fight tonsillitis because of the following reasons:

  • It has natural anti-microbial properties that can help fight the external invaders.
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties as well that can help reduce the swelling.
  • It is rich in Vitamin C that boosts the immunity of the afflicted person.

You can make a drink to treat tonsillitis with the help of the following steps:

  • Take a glass of water. It should be warmer than lukewarm, but not be so hot that it damages internal tissue.
  • Squeeze an entire lemon in the water. You can also add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey. Not only will they improve the taste, they will help cure the affliction as well because:
    • Honey has mild anti-bacterial properties that can help stave off bacterial tonsillitis.
    • Salt is an astringent, which makes it an effective anti-microbial agent. It can draw the pus out of the inflamed tonsils, thus providing some welcome relief. It can also kill the invading microbes by dehydrating them.

The sufferer should drink the aforementioned drink twice every day until the affliction is cured, which should happen in a few days.

An alternate, more aggressive form of this treatment would be to take a slice of lemon, sprinkle some salt on it and then suck on it directly for up to three times a day. One can add a teaspoon of honey if they find the taste of raw lemons to be a bit too strong.

  1. Carrot Juice

Carrots are rich in Vitamin A, which boosts your immunity and helps the sufferer fight the affliction from the inside. Drinking carrot juice three times a day can get rid of the affliction relatively quickly.

  1. Papaya Juice

Papaya contains an enzyme known as papaya proteinase or papain, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduced the swelling in the inflamed tonsils. Drinking papaya juice a couple of times every day should go a long way towards getting relief from tonsillitis.

  1. Gargles

These are the most commonly cited home remedy for tonsillitis, probably because they tend to be extremely effective. There are quite a few different ways you can prepare gargles, however irrespective of the way it is prepared, one should always spit out the gargle water and never swallow it, so that the extracted microbes exit the system of the sufferer instead of entering it further.

Following are the most effective gargles:

  • Salt water gargle: We have already established why salt can help combat the microbes that are causing tonsillitis. To prepare this gargle, mix one teaspoon of table salt in a glass of warmer than lukewarm water. The sufferer can use this as often as he would like.
  • Onion gargle: Onions have documented anti-microbial properties that can be used to fight a case of tonsillitis. Simply run a full-sized onion through the food processor to extract the juice and add two tablespoons of the juice to a glass of warm water. Alternatively you can boil three onions in a pan of water for about ten minutes. Let this cool down to a warmer than lukewarm stage and then use it for gargling.
  • Turmeric gargle: The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are almost legendary. They were first documented in Ayurveda and it has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medical practitioners for centuries. Simply add a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warmer than lukewarm water and use it to gargle. Some prefer adding it to the salt water gargle to increase its potency.
  • Fenugreek seeds gargle: Fenugreek seeds have potent anti-microbial properties as well, which can be utilized in the form of a gargle to fight off tonsillitis. Simply boil a couple of teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in a pan of water for about ten minutes, strain, let it cool down to the desirable temperature and use it.
  • Alum gargle: Hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate, more commonly known as alum has been used as a water purifier as well as a topical antiseptic for centuries, before they were replaced by modern water filtration systems and the more soothing after shave balms. However, its potent antibacterial properties remain unchanged and it can be added to warm water to create an antiseptic gargle to cure tonsillitis. Simply take some alum (available at your local grocery or health food store) and grind it into a fine powder. Mix two teaspoons of this powder into a glass of warmer than lukewarm water and have the afflicted person gargle with it for up to two times a day.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) gargle: Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has potent anti-microbial properties that can be utilized in the form of a gargle. To make it effective the gargle water should be about 50% ACV. If the sufferer finds that to be a bit too strong, then it may be diluted a bit further. However, before administering this treatment, you need to make sure that the sufferer is not allergic to it. To find that out, simply apply a bit of diluted ACV on an unblemished part of the sufferer’s skin. There will be a minor stinging sensation, which should go away in a few seconds. However, if the sufferer feels a persistent burn, he may be allergic to it and should implement an alternate treatment. For best results, use organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” inside the bottle.

About DrWales 19 Articles
Dr Wales is a researcher and is well-versed in writing medical and research articles, reviews and data analysis.

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