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Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the 2 round pieces of tissue at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis is known for causing pain and tenderness in the throat, but can it cause infections in other people? Is tonsillitis contagious?

The tonsils are found at the back of the throat and are one of the first places a doctor will look to check for illness. That’s because the tonsils serve an important purpose: they filter bacteria and viruses as they enter the throat in order to prevent infection or illness. Swollen tonsils are one of the first outward signs of sickness.

Tonsillitis is usually caused by viral infections like the flu, but it can stem from a bacterial infection as well. Either way, tonsillitis usually comes with symptoms like a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty or pain when swallowing and hoarseness. Treatment will depend on the source of the infection. Virus-based infections, like a cold or the flu, will have to run their course before improving. For viral tonsillitis, symptoms are treated to ease pain and discomfort until the immune system has fought off the virus. Measures that may bring relief include gargling with warm salt water, sucking on cough drops, rest and over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Other tonsil infections are caused by bacteria. Bacterial tonsillitis, such as strep throat, should be treated with a complete antibiotic regimen.

Is tonsillitis contagious? Bacterial tonsillitis is contagious, while viral tonsillitis is not (although the viruses themselves are contagious, causing tonsillitis when caught). Bacterial tonsillitis and the viruses that cause viral tonsillitis are spread through respiratory droplets. This can be through a sneeze or cough, or by touching an infected surface and then touching your nose or mouth. The contagious phase starts about 2 days before symptoms appear, so prevention is the key to warding off tonsillitis. Good hygiene is critical in the defense against tonsillitis; wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and don’t share utensils or food with others.