Tonsillitis may be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.
Tonsillitis caused by viral infection
Common viral infections leading to tonsillitis include:
- The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is one of the most common causes of tonsillitis. This virus is part of the herpes family, it is widely known as the cause of the infection mononucleosis (mono), which is also known as glandular fever.
- Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can infect the tissue linings (membranes) of your throat. Most of these infections are mild.
- The influenza virus, otherwise known as the flu virus, affects the lungs, nose and throat.
- Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs) are common in young children, but it is possible for anyone to be at risk. They are known for causing illnesses of the respiratory tract. Symptoms include a running nose, fever and coughing.
- The Herpes Simplex Virus, transmitted orally, is also a common cause of tonsillitis.
- Enteroviruses are named after their place of residence in the body, which is the intestine, however, they can also infect the upper respiratory tract.
Tonsillitis caused by bacterial infection
The most common bacterial infection being strep throat (streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis). This is highly contagious and is spread via airborne droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread through sharing drinks and food with an infected person. It is most common in children between the ages of five and 15. Strep throat is airborne and infects the tonsils resulting in swelling and infection.
Types of tonsillitis
There are three types of tonsillitis:
- Acute tonsillities: This occurs when you experience isolated cases of the illness.
- Recurrent tonsillitis: When your infection causes numerous incidents of acute tonsillitis a year, this is referred to as recurrent tonsillitis.
- Chronic tonsillitis: When incidents of tonsillitis last longer than acute tonsillitis and you also experience symptoms of a chronic sore throat, sore lymph nodes in the neck and bad breath over an extended period of time, this is known as chronic tonsillitis.