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Is tonsillitis contagious?

Tonsillitis isn't contagious itself, but the viral or bacterial infections that cause it can be picked up from someone else who is infected.

This can often be through coughs and sneezes or touching contaminated surfaces.

The tonsils are glands either side of the throat that help to fight infection in young children before their immune systems become fully developed.

Avoiding tonsillitis

Viruses that can cause tonsillitis include those responsible for:

Bacteria responsible for many tonsillitis cases include group A streptococcus bacteria, or strep A.

A child or adult with tonsillitis can help avoid spreading the underlying infections by staying away from work or school until symptoms have cleared up.

The same basic hygiene that helps stop the spread of colds and flu is also important. This includes good handwashing and catching coughs and sneezes in tissues, and putting the tissues in a bin.

Tonsillitis treatment

For many people no specific treatment is needed for tonsillitis. However, if symptoms last longer than 4 days and are not improving, or cause problems with breathing, eating or drinking, seek medical advice.

Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial tonsillitis if symptoms are severe, not improving, or if the person has a weakened immune system.

In severe cases of repeated tonsillitis infections, removal of the tonsils may be recommended, called a tonsillectomy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 20, 2017

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