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Acute tonsillitis (tonsillitis acuta) is an infection of the palatine tonsils. It is usually caused by viruses, more rarely by bacteria. When we talk about tonsillitis or angina, we are usually referring to acute tonsillitis. In this case, the palatine tonsils, which are located at the transition from the mouth to the throat, are inflamed.

The typical symptoms of acute tonsillitis are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the lymph nodes in the throat, fever and a pronounced feeling of illness. Acute tonsillitis mainly affects children and adolescents. The disease usually occurs in the winter months and in spring. Tonsillitis can only be prevented indirectly.

If acute tonsillitis occurs repeatedly, it can lead to chronic tonsillitis. In this case, the tonsils are permanently inflamed and can be surgically removed if necessary.


In acute tonsillitis, the affected person has pain in the upper throat area - both when swallowing and when opening the mouth. Other symptoms include a general feeling of illness, headaches, fever, increased salivation and a cloudy voice. In acute tonsillitis, the tonsils are inflamed and swollen and often have a white, grayish to yellowish coating. In many cases, the lymph nodes in the neck are also painfully swollen. Another typical symptom of acute tonsillitis is an unpleasant bad breath.


As a rule, acute tonsillitis heals without consequences after a period of one to two weeks. The incubation period - the time between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms - is usually 24 to 72 hours. In the case of chronic tonsillitis, those affected tend to suffer from repeated inflammation. In most cases, the condition only improves when the tonsils are removed.

Although acute tonsillitis usually progresses without any problems, complications are also possible. In rare cases of acute tonsillitis, the tonsils can become greatly enlarged and lead to shortness of breath. Abscesses can also form in rare cases. In this case, pus collects in the tissue surrounding the tonsils, with the risk of the germs entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body. This in turn can lead to serious illnesses in other organs. In such cases, patients must be hospitalized. If an abscess has formed, it is usually removed surgically.

If acute tonsillitis occurs repeatedly, this can lead to chronic tonsillitis. In this case, the tonsils are often permanently swollen.


The cause of acute tonsillitis is usually a viral infection. If tonsillitis is transmitted by viruses, pathogens from influenza, mononucleosis or cold sores are often responsible. If the viruses infect the mucous membranes, bacteria can also colonize more easily and thus increase the risk of complications.

If tonsillitis is transmitted by bacteria, certain streptococcal bacteria are usually responsible for the infection. However, other bacteria such as pneumococci, staphylococci or Haemophilus influenzae can also trigger tonsillitis. If a person is generally weak or has a weakened immune system, this favors tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is transmitted by droplet infection - through saliva, coughing or sneezing.

Acute tonsillitis can also be a concomitant symptom of another illness. Scarlet fever, for example, is a bacterial infection that usually occurs in the form of tonsillitis and is accompanied by a rash. Other diseases with forms of angina are, for example, Pfeiffer's glandular fever, angina in the context of diphtheria, tuberculosis or leukemia.


A doctor can usually diagnose acute tonsillitis quickly based on the clear symptoms. As part of a so-called visual diagnosis, the doctor will see reddened and swollen tonsils as well as possible purulent deposits on the surface of the tonsils. At the same time, the palatal arches may be reddened; patients also have a coated tongue. A doctor can also make this diagnosis without the sick person being directly present. Acute tonsillitis can therefore be treated well using telemedicine. A photo of the throat helps the telemedicine practitioner to make a diagnosis.

A throat swab to determine the pathogen is usually only carried out in individual cases - for example, if bacterial tonsillitis is suspected.


The treatment of tonsillitis depends on the cause of the illness. If it is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics. In the case of a viral infection, antibiotics are not used - in these cases, painkillers and antipyretics are administered.

In general, sufferers should eat soft and not overly spicy foods; cold drinks and ice cream alleviate swallowing difficulties. Sufferers should also drink plenty - for example water or herbal teas. Fruit juices should not be consumed, as the acid further irritates the inflamed tonsils.

Tonsillitis is often accompanied by a sore throat. The pain can be alleviated with home remedies such as gargle solutions with anti-inflammatory and disinfectant sage or camomile. It is also recommended to take ginger tea with honey, as the active ingredients reduce germs and relieve inflammation. Calf compresses are a tried and tested household remedy for fever. Although these treatments do not shorten the duration of the inflammation, these home remedies help to alleviate the symptoms in most cases.


Tonsillitis cannot be prevented in the true sense of the word. It is generally advisable to strengthen the immune system with a balanced and healthy diet and regular physical activity. Too much stress should also be avoided. Furthermore, the mucous membranes should not be additionally irritated by cigarette smoke, dust or alcohol. And: hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing or hand disinfection, changing towels or wearing a face mask can protect against infection.

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