Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Health A-Z

Tonsillitis - Diagnosing tonsillitis

NHS Choices Medical Reference

NHS Choices Logo

See your GP if you think that you or your child has tonsillitis.

Your GP will examine your throat and ask some questions about your symptoms.

There are four main signs that determine whether tonsillitis is due to a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection. 

These are:

  • a high temperature
  • white pus-filled spots on the tonsils
  • no cough
  • swollen and tender lymph nodes (glands)

If you have two of the above, your GP may recommend further testing. If you have three or more of the above then it is highly likely that you have bacterial tonsillitis and antibiotics may sometimes be prescribed.

Laboratory testing

If a more detailed diagnosis is required, a swab sample can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results can take a few days to return.

Laboratory tests are mainly used for patients in high-risk groups (such as those with weakened immune systems) or if previous treatment has failed.

Blood test

If you develop tonsillitis as an adult and you also have additional symptoms such as swollen nodes and a very painful throat your GP may recommend you have a blood test to see whether you have glandular fever. Read more about the diagnosis of glandular fever.

Medical Review: February 02, 2012
Next Article:

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
smiling african american woman
Best kept secrets for beautiful hair
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
nappy being changed
How to change your baby's nappy
woman using moisturizer
Causes and home solutions
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
woman with cucumbers on eyes
How to banish dark circles and bags
probiotic shakes
Help digestion
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting