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Tonsils – what are they?

Most pathogens reach the body via the throat area. A firewall right here prevents them from advancing any further. It consists of the tonsils and the mucous membranes in the neck area. The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system which is responsible for mounting the immune response to pathogens. A large number of immune cells are stationed in the tonsils.

There are various tonsils in the neck and throat area:

  • Palatine tonsils (pair)
  • Pharyngeal tonsil
  • Lingual tonsil

Only the palatine tonsils at the right and left of the base of the tongue can be seen. The lingual tonsils can only be seen when the doctor presses your tongue downwards using a spatula. The pharyngeal tonsil can also not be seen without using an aid.

The tonsils form a substantial ring of defence, the so-called Waldeyer tonsillar ring.

What is tonsillitis?

If pathogens invade through the mouth or nose, the immune cells in the tonsils are immediately activated and work flat out. This is noticeable as a swelling in the throat region and the onset of a scratchy throat. If the immune response is very strong, the tonsils may become inflamed. The swelling and a feeling of tightness in the throat worsen – as well as the sore throat. Angina is the medical term for tightness. Angina tonsillaris is therefore inflammation of the tonsils. Lateral angina is a sore throat that affects the strands of the lymphatic system that are at the side of the neck in the mucous membranes.

In practice, the term tonsillitis is used for inflammation of the palatine tonsils (Tonsilla palatina). Acute tonsillitis can be distinguished from chronic tonsillitis by the course of the disease. If only one side is inflamed, this is referred to as unilateral tonsillitis. If, in contrast, both sides are inflamed, this is known as bilateral Tonsillitis.

What are the signs of tonsillitis?

Characteristic symptoms of tonsillitis are pain on swallowing and swallowing difficulties. These are caused by the swelling of the pharyngeal isthmus as well as the inflammation and sometimes last for a few days. Speech may also be muffled due to the swollen tonsils. Due to the angina, people affected sometimes have unpleasant bad breath (foetor ex ore) and commonly notice a nasty aftertaste after drinking. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, lymph nodes may swell at the angle of the jaw. In addition to these typical symptoms, non-specific general symptoms commonly occur such as headache, fatigue, feeling unwell and fever.

What is purulent tonsillitis?

Purulent tonsillitis may develop depending on the severity of the inflammation and type of pathogen. A flu-like infection which often causes tonsillitis is usually triggered by viruses. Once the mucous membranes have been damaged by viruses, bacteria can also establish themselves on them. This often leads to the palatine tonsils forming yellow spots – this has resulted in purulent tonsillitis.

Scarlet fever or tonsillitis?

The type of pathogen is important for this. Scarlet fever is triggered by Streptococcus, that is bacteria. This can either just cause tonsillitis or also trigger the typical skin symptoms as well. The raspberry or strawberry tongue that results is characteristic of scarlet fever after the initial white coating of the tongue has been removed. Scarlet fever is one of the infectious diseases you can catch a number of times in your life.

When should you go to the doctor with tonsillitis?

Sore throats commonly occur during the course of a cold. Most of the time they resolve quickly on their own. You must consult a doctor without fail if the symptoms are very severe or long-lasting, or the fever is severe or speech becomes muffled. With purulent or bacterial tonsillitis, you may have to take antibiotics. The reason for this is that some of the bacterial candidates for the pathogen are extremely dangerous and can also spread to other organs. It may be necessary to remove the tonsils with recurrent tonsillitis (tonsillectomy). Previously, such tonsil operations were frequently carried out. In the meantime, we know that the tonsils have an important function and they are only removed if it is absolutely necessary.

What should you eat and drink when you have tonsillitis?

Acidic juices are often unpleasant as they can irritate the mucous membranes in the throat. However, vitamins and plenty of fluids are naturally important! Cold drinks and ice cream relieve pain and reduce swelling, but they also reduce the circulation at the same time and, thus, hinder the healing process – therefore consume in moderation. Depending on individual preference, hot or warm drinks and foods are more suitable. Smoking is counter-productive! Avoid this while there is inflammation and in the following days.

What helps tonsillitis?

Gargle repeatedly – preferably with chamomile, thyme or sage tea. Use the healing power of throat compresses – cooling with quark, warming with hot potatoes.

It is important to keep the body fit to prevent tonsillitis from developing. A proper diet and plenty of exercise in the fresh air boost the immune system. High humidity and drinking plenty supports the mucous membranes with their immune function. This means pathogens cannot take hold.

Homoeopathy to counter sore throats

Good sore throat remedies act in several ways: They support the immune response, ease inflammation, swelling and pain and shorten the duration of symptoms.