A virus usually causes an infection in the tonsils, or tonsillitis, but some cases are caused by streptococcus bacteria, according to WebMD. Tonsillitis can be caused by a fungus or parasite, but this is rare in individuals with healthy immune systems.
A sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and severe fever usually indicate that the tonsillitis is caused by the strep bacteria, states WebMD. Antibiotics are prescribed to control the spread of the infection. If a virus is the cause of tonsillitis, the symptoms mimic that of a cold, including sneezing, coughing and a stuffy nose. Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers, warm beverages and home rest until the infection resolves on its own.
Tonsillitis is spread by breathing in droplets passed through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs, explains WebMD. It can also be contracted by coming into contact with infected droplets deposited onto objects that are then transmitted to an individual’s mouth, nose or eyes. Tonsillitis is most prevalent in the preschool through mid-teenage years, notes Mayo Clinic. Additional symptoms often found in children include difficulty swallowing, coating on the tonsils, bad breath, headache and stomach ache. In very young, pre-verbal children, drooling, fussiness and a refusal to eat are often indications that the infection is present.