Inflammation of the tonsils is a common problem seen in ORL. The tonsils and adenoids are lymphoid tissue which means that they play a role in the body’s immune system.


The commonest causes of tonsillitis are viruses and bacteria.


The diagnosis can be made based on assessment of your symptoms and the pattern of tonsillitis over time. Usual symptoms include pain, difficulty swallowing, reduced eating and fevers. Multiple sore throats can result in enlargement of the tonsils. However, not everyone with large tonsils is troubled by them and so do not require further treatment. Similarly, tonsillitis can occur in small tonsils but cause a great deal of symptoms.


Treatment for tonsillitis is usually supportive. Measures like encouraging fluid intake, regular pain relief and resting will help your body cope whilst it naturally tries to deal with tonsil infections. Some infections are bacterial and your GP may take a swab of your throat and prescribe antibiotics. Strep throat infections are a cause for concern in Aotearoa New Zelaand, especially in children, as the infection can spread to other parts of the body including the heart and lungs. This infection should always be treated promptly with antibiotics. If the pattern of infection suggests that recurrent tonsillitis is an ongoing issue, we will discuss whether an operation to remove your tonsils is right for you.

Frequently asked questions

Adenoids sit right at the back of the nose. Like the tonsils, they are also part of the immune system. They help the body deal with foreign things coming into your body like viruses. As our immune system develops and becomes more sophisticated, the working area of the immune system reduces. Both the tonsils and the adenoids tend to reduce in size with age.

The immune system working areas are throughout the body, not just the tonsils and adenoids. When these are removed, immune activities continue as normal in the other areas.

Over time, our understanding of ORL problems and how best to treat them has changed and will continue to evolve. There are many adults who, under today’s criteria, would have been recommended for a tonsillectomy as a child. It’s worth discussing whether this is still a good option for you now.