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Best over the counter medicine for swollen tonsils: Tonsillitis home remedies for children and adults

Tonsillitis home remedies for children and adults

Tonsillitis is a literal pain in the neck. Swollen and inflamed tonsils can make it hard to swallow or even breathe. And the idea of eating or drinking? It can be too much to bear.

The good news is that, in most cases, symptoms don’t last long and can be treated with home remedies. It’s also possible to enjoy food and beverages that won’t irritate sore throats and tonsils.

Below, we share how to reduce tonsil swelling and discomfort with home treatments, food and beverages – and what to do if nothing seems to work.

Tonsillitis home remedies for children and adults

If a sore throat or other tonsillitis symptoms are causing you or your little one discomfort, there are a range of tonsillitis self-care options you can try.

But if symptoms don’t get better in a few days or if they include a high fever, make a doctor’s appointment – you may need a prescription for antibiotics or another treatment such as surgery.

1. Stay home and get plenty of sleep

Getting enough sleep is a home remedy for practically every illness. There’s a reason for that – sleep boosts your immune system. And when you’re asleep, your body is better able to focus its energy on helping you get better.

There’s another reason to stay home and rest. Tonsillitis is caused by contagious viruses and bacteria. By staying home, you can stop illnesses like the cold and flu from spreading. And if you’re caring for someone with tonsillitis, make sure to wash your hands frequently and don’t share utensils, food or drinks. Getting a flu shot can help too.

2. Gargle with saltwater

If you or your child have tonsillitis, salt water can reduce swelling and discomfort. Here’s how to do it:

  • Add 1 teaspoon salt to 8 ounces of warm water.
  • Gargle for 1-2 minutes.
  • Repeat every hour.

It can be tricky for younger kids to gargle – so this method is best if they’re 8 years old or older.

3. Use a cool-mist humidifier

Dry air can irritate a sore throat. A humidifier adds moisture to the air and can make breathing more comfortable. Plus, leaving the device on at night can make it easier to sleep. There are many humidifier options, but cool-mist humidifiers tend to work best for people with tonsillitis.

If you don’t have a humidifier, try a hot shower instead – inhaling the warm steam can open up your airway so it’s easier to breathe.

4. Take over-the-counter medicines for tonsillitis

Over-the-counter medications can help with the pain, swelling and inflammation that usually accompanies tonsillitis. But not all medications are safe for people of all ages, and some medications can be dangerous when taken together. So, make sure to read all the instructions that come with the medicine and take the correct dose.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when treating tonsillitis with over-the-counter medicines:

  • Pain relievers – Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) can be good options to reduce inflammation or pain. You should never give aspirin to people under 20 years old.
  • Cold and flu medicines – Cold and flu viruses are common causes for tonsillitis. So, cold and flu medicines can be effective when you have tonsillitis. But it may not be safe to take both cold or flu medicine, and a separate Tylenol since too much acetaminophen can be dangerous.
  • Cough drops – Cough drops aren’t safe for little ones who are younger than 4 years old. But even if your kiddo is in elementary school, it’s best to keep an eye on them if they have a lozenge in their mouth.
  • Throat spray – Some throat sprays are appropriate for kids as young as two years old. The catch is that most kids don’t like to use throat sprays. If your child is not a fan, don’t force them. Instead, try a different treatment option.

We can help you figure out which medicines or combination of medicines are safe for you or your kiddo to take – just call the CareLine nurse line at 612-339-3663 or 800-551-0859 any time, day or night.

5. Avoid cigarette smoke

Staying away from cigarette smoke can help prevent tonsillitis, as well as help you heal faster. Cigarette smoke weakens the immune system, making it more likely that you’ll get infections – such as those that cause tonsillitis. Smoke also irritates the tonsils, making it more likely you’ll have repeat cases of tonsillitis and complications that require surgery.

Quitting smoking is a self-care tip that you can find on many lists – and the benefits go far beyond healthier tonsils. For starters, quitting helps reduce your chance of heart disease and many types of cancers. But we know it’s not easy to quit. If you’d like help, talk to your doctor.

What to eat and drink with tonsillitis

Tonsillitis throat pain can make eating so uncomfortable that it’s hard to want to eat or drink. As a parent, it can be tough when your child refuses all food and beverages. Try to offer food and beverages that soothe, rather than irritate, their throat (see below for some ideas).

It’s also a good idea to be on the lookout for signs of dehydration such as dark-colored urine, sluggishness, and sunken eyes or cheeks. If you think your child may be dehydrated, contact the CareLine nurse line at 612-339-3663 or 800-551-0859.

Below, we answer common questions about eating and drinking when you have tonsillitis.

Are warm liquids good for tonsillitis?

Yes. Warm liquids can soothe throat pain and be good sources of nutrients if you or your child find eating uncomfortable.

When you have tonsillitis, tea with honey can help with throat pain. Honey coats the throat and helps reduce irritation and inflammation. Other tasty tea additions with health benefits include lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Soups and broths also help coat and soothe a sore throat. Bone broth is especially good because it contains protein and other nutrients your body needs to get healthy.

Not a fan of hot liquids? Go to the other temperature extreme. Some people opt for icy cold beverages for tonsillitis because they can be easier to swallow.

Are frozen foods like popsicles good for tonsillitis?

Yes, this is true. It’s not just a rumor spread by popsicle-loving children. Ice-cold foods like popsicles, ice cream, frozen yogurt and smoothies can numb the throat, reduce pain and make kids (and adults) more comfortable.

While a balanced diet is extremely important to overall health, it’s okay to break rules about no dessert before dinner when you or your kiddo are suffering through tonsillitis. Just make sure you get your eating habits back on track once everyone has recovered.

Is juice good for tonsillitis?

Most kids like juice and would happily drink it all day long. But because juice is high in sugar, pediatricians usually recommend a daily limit of a cup or less, depending on your child’s age.

Just like with popsicles, it’s okay to bend the rules if your kiddo has tonsillitis. If they don’t want to eat, drinking juice can provide an energy boost while keeping them hydrated. Plus, if the juice is super cold, it can help numb the throat and make them more comfortable.

But you’ll want to pay attention to the types of juice you offer them. Avoid acidic options like orange juice, pineapple juice and lemonade since they can irritate the throat. Apple, pear and peach juices are good alternatives because they have low acidity.

If your child is running a fever or you’re worried about dehydration, consider offering an electrolyte replacement beverage like Pedialyte or Gatorade.

Are hard foods good for tonsillitis?

No. Foods that are hard or have sharp edges can irritate the throat. So pass on chips, cereal, toast and raw veggies. Instead, opt for softer foods like tortillas, eggs, yogurt and Jell-O.

Are spicy foods good for tonsillitis?

No. Even if you taste-test hot sauce for fun, it’s a good idea to avoid spicy foods when you have tonsillitis. Foods like chilies and hot sauces can irritate infected tonsils and make them feel worse. So, it’s best to eat bland food when you have tonsillitis.

What if tonsillitis doesn’t go away with home treatments

Home remedies for tonsillitis are usually enough to help people quickly recover from tonsillitis. But there are times when additional treatment may be necessary.

Antibiotics for bacterial infections

If tonsillitis is caused by bacteria (such as the one that causes strep throat), you’ll likely need to take antibiotics for it to go away. Signs that it may be bacterial tonsillitis include a fever and a sore throat that doesn’t start to improve within a few days.

To find out if you or your child need antibiotics, make an appointment with your primary care doctor.

During the appointment, your doctor may do a physical examination to confirm that it’s tonsillitis. They’ll also do a bacteria culture test to see if the infection is viral or bacterial. If the test is positive, you’ll need antibiotics for a bacterial infection. If you test negative, your tonsillitis comes from a viral infection.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it’s important to completely finish them, even if you or your child feel better.


In some cases, your doctor may recommend you talk to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist about a tonsillectomy, an outpatient surgical procedure to remove the tonsils.

The decision to remove tonsils is influenced by different factors, including symptoms, the complications you have and if tonsillitis is affecting your quality of life. Your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy for:

  • Chronic tonsillitis that doesn’t get better with antibiotics or other treatments
  • Recurrent episodes of tonsillitis – for example, seven or more episodes in a year
  • Swollen tonsils are causing breathing problems or sleep apnea symptoms

When to call the doctor about your tonsillitis

If you or your child aren’t feeling better after three days of home treatments, it’s a good idea to make a primary care appointment.

Make an appointment if you or your child have:

  • A sore throat with a fever
  • A sore throat that lasts longer than 48 hours
  • Difficulty and painful swallowing
  • Extreme tiredness

Head to the emergency room if you or your child have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Significant drooling because it’s hard to swallow

Infected, swollen tonsils are a pain. Our primary care doctors and ENT specialists are here to help.

10 home treatments for relief from tonsillitis

The term tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the tonsils. The tonsils are two oval-shaped glands that sit at the back of the throat. Their role is to fight off bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the nose and mouth.

Most cases of tonsillitis occur due to a viral infection. Bacterial infections are responsible for about 15–30% of cases.

Tonsillitis can affect anyone, but it is more common in children. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, almost all children in the United States will experience at least one episode of tonsillitis.

In this article, we outline the best home treatments and over-the-counter (OTC) medications for alleviating the symptoms of tonsillitis.

The following home remedies can help treat tonsillitis or alleviate its symptoms.

1. Drinking plenty of warm liquids

Warm liquids, such as soup, can help sooth a sore throat.

Drinking warm liquids, including soups, broths, and teas, can help soothe a sore throat.

Herbal teas containing ingredients such as honey, pectin, or glycerine may help, as these ingredients form a protective film over the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, which might soothe irritation.

However, there is only weak evidence that herbal teas help treat the symptoms of tonsillitis.

2. Eating cold foods

Eating cold, soft foods, such as frozen yogurt or ice cream, can numb the throat, offering temporary pain relief.

People can also try the following:

  • sucking on popsicles
  • drinking chilled smoothies
  • sipping ice cold water

Other options include hard candies or chewing gums that contain mint or menthol. These ingredients provide a similar cooling and numbing sensation in the throat.

3. Avoiding hard foods

For people with tonsillitis, eating hard or sharp foods can be uncomfortable and even painful.

Hard foods may scratch the throat, leading to further irritation and inflammation. Foods to avoid include:

  • chips
  • crackers
  • dry cereal
  • toast
  • raw carrots
  • raw apples

People should try eating softer foods that are easier to swallow or stick to soups, broths, or chilled smoothies until their symptoms subside.

4. Gargling with salt water

Gargling with salt water may temporarily soothe pain or tickling in the back of the throat.

People can make a saltwater mixture by adding a quarter of a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water and stirring the solution until the salt dissolves.

They can then gargle with the salt water for a few seconds before spitting it out. It is safe to repeat the process as often as necessary as long as the person avoids swallowing the mixture.

Gargling is not suitable for younger children as there is a risk that they will inhale the fluid and choke.

5. Increasing indoor humidity

Dry air can further irritate a sore throat. People with tonsillitis may benefit from using a cool mist humidifier. These devices release moisture back into the air, helping alleviate throat discomfort.

People should clean humidifiers daily to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.

Individuals who do not have access to a humidifier can instead try inhaling steam from a hot shower or bath.

6. Avoiding straining the voice

Swelling in the throat can cause the voice to become muffled. It may be tempting to counter this by raising the voice, but doing so risks further throat irritation.

If speaking is painful, a person should try to rest the voice as much as possible. They should also make an appointment with the doctor, as having difficulty speaking can sometimes indicate a complication.


Getting plenty of rest

People with tonsillitis should get as much rest as possible. Resting will allow the body to fight off the viral or bacterial infection.

Continuing to go to work or school not only increases the likelihood of a person being ill for longer, but it may also put others at risk of catching the infection.

8. Over-the-counter pain relievers

OTC analgesics can help relieve a sore throat, fever, and other painful symptoms of tonsillitis. Examples of these drugs include:

  • acetaminophen
  • ibuprofen
  • aspirin

Aspirin is not suitable for children as it can cause a life threatening illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Taking analgesics at regular intervals can help sustain pain relief throughout the day.

9. Medicated throat lozenges

Some throat lozenges contain anesthetic medications to numb and soothe the throat. Many also contain anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and inflammation.

One of the benefits of throat lozenges is that they deliver pain relief directly to the site of inflammation.

Some lozenges also contain antiseptic agents. These help target the bacteria responsible for bacterial tonsillitis.

However, lozenges are not suitable for young children as they pose a choking risk. Some also contain benzocaine, which can have adverse effects in this population. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise parents and caregivers to avoid giving products containing benzocaine to children younger than 2 years unless a doctor recommends it.

10. Throat sprays and gargles

Throat sprays and gargles are another way to deliver anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic medications directly to the throat.

People can look for throat sprays with one of the following active ingredients:

  • benzydamine
  • phenol
  • dibucaine
  • benzocaine, for older children and adults only
  • benzyl alcohol
  • cetylpyridinium chloride
  • chlorhexidine gluconate

Tonsillitis often resolves without treatment within a few days. However, some people may experience continued or worsening symptoms.

In some cases, this may indicate complications, such as an infection that has spread.

People should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • a sore throat that lasts more than 2 days
  • throat pain so severe that it is difficult to eat or drink
  • labored breathing or swallowing
  • extreme illness, weakness, or fatigue
  • fever that lasts more than 3 days or goes away for more than a day and then returns

Parents and caregivers who notice signs of tonsillitis in a child should take them to see a doctor.

Peritonsillar abscess

If a sore throat lasts longer than 2 days, a person should speak to a doctor.

People should also see a doctor if they have symptoms of a potentially serious complication of tonsillitis called a peritonsillar abscess.

A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus that forms near one of the tonsils. This type of abscess forms when a bacterial infection spreads from an infected tonsil to the area surrounding it.

Symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess include:

  • a severe sore throat that may be worse on one side
  • swelling inside the mouth and throat
  • difficulty speaking
  • trouble swallowing
  • breathing issues
  • difficulty opening the mouth
  • swollen lymph glands
  • fever and chills
  • an earache or neck pain on the side where the throat is sore

People who suspect that they have an abscess should make an urgent appointment with a doctor or go to the emergency room.

Without treatment, a peritonsillar abscess can lead to sepsis and severe breathing difficulties, both of which can be life threatening.

Tonsillitis is a common condition that can affect both children and adults.

Most cases of tonsillitis resolve without treatment within a few days. In the meantime, a range of home remedies and OTC treatments can help relieve bothersome symptoms.

Tonsillitis may sometimes result in more serious complications. People should see a doctor if they experience new symptoms or if their original symptoms persist or become worse.

Read the article in Spanish.

Tonsillitis: features, classification, symptoms, treatment

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Tonsillitis is an inflammatory process in the palatine tonsils, which is characterized by hyperemia, redness and pain, in some cases, the appearance of purulent contents in the lacunae or all of the tonsils. The palatine tonsils are peripheral organs of the immune system and are designed to protect the body from the penetration of various bacteria and viruses into the human body. When a pathological agent penetrates to neutralize it, active production of leukocytes begins in the tonsils, but with a strong infection, the immune system cannot cope and inflammation occurs.



Types of tonsillitis



  • Discomfort or pain in the throat, worse when swallowing, sometimes it can radiate to the ear.
  • Stinging, burning in the tonsils, dryness and sensation of a foreign body in the throat.
  • An increase in body temperature, sometimes significantly (up to 39-40 ° C), sometimes tonsillitis occurs without fever.
  • Bad putrid odor from the mouth.
  • Obsessive dry cough.
  • Enlargement of regional lymph nodes.
  • The development of purulent inflammation can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, convulsions.
  • General deterioration of health: weakness, pain in muscles and joints, headaches, excessive sweating, fatigue, decreased performance.

Tonsillitis occurs in acute (tonsillitis) and chronic forms.

Acute tonsillitis (tonsillitis) or primary inflammation can occur in catarrhal, lacunar, follicular, less often necrotic form. Secondary acute inflammation of the palatine tonsils most often occurs against the background of existing inflammatory or infectious diseases – scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid fever, mononucleosis, and leukemia,

Chronic tonsillitis is a long-term inflammatory process in the tonsils, with rare or constant relapses of the disease. Exacerbations can be caused both by viruses or bacteria, and against the background of SARS, dental diseases, and a general decrease in immunity.

Tonsillitis occurs due to a weakened immune defense and in the presence of provoking factors. The causative agents of inflammation of the palatine tonsils are most often adenoviruses, coccal flora (streptococci, staphylococci), chlamydia, rhinoviruses, herpes viruses, parainfluenza.

Development of the disease is promoted by:

  • hypothermia;
  • bad habits smoking and alcohol abuse;
  • hypo and beriberi;
  • throat injuries;
  • chronic inflammatory diseases of the cavities of the nose and throat, paranasal sinuses;
  • uncontrolled intake of hormonal drugs;
  • hereditary predisposition in diseases of the throat;
  • hypoplasia of lymphoid tissues and other causes.

Exacerbations of chronic tonsillitis occur annually (up to 2-3 times a year). Constant relapses of the disease can provoke the development of complications: tonsil abscess, sepsis, as well as the transfer of purulent inflammation to other organs: sinusitis, otitis media, mastoiditis, meningitis, pneumonia. Purulent inflammation of the palatine tonsils often contributes to the development of serious and dangerous complications: rheumatism, polyarthritis, glumerulonephritis, acquired heart disease, inflammation of the heart membranes, etc.

Also, the disease can provoke a violation of nasal breathing and concomitant somatic diseases of various organs and systems that affect the overall reactivity of the body.

Diagnosis of the disease

Diagnosis is made on the basis of patient complaints, physical examination data and instrumental studies. During the examination, the doctor identifies the causative agent of the disease, for this a swab is taken from the throat, the presence of complications, the cause of the disease.

Treatment of tonsillitis in the Gaide clinic

Comprehensive treatment of tonsillitis is carried out under the supervision of an otorhinolaryngologist, self-treatment in this case is unacceptable. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat tonsils. To free the tonsils from accumulated pus, lacunae are washed using the Tonsilor apparatus. Also used are injections into the tonsils, the introduction of medicinal substances into the lacunae, and the lubrication of the tonsils with antiseptics.