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What Is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. Your tonsils are two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat. They help catch germs and bacteria that can make you sick. 

Tonsillitis is very common and mainly affects children between preschool ages and the mid-teenage years. 

Symptoms of tonsillitis include:

  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • White or yellow patches on the tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Swollen, tender glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • A scratchy, muffled, or throaty voice
  • Bad breath
  • Stomachache
  • Neck pain or stiff neck
  • Headache

Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by streptococcus (strep) bacteria. Other bacteria and viruses that may infect your tonsils include:

  • Adenoviruses
  • Epstein-Barr virus (this causes infectious mononucleosis)
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Measles virus

UR Medicine's Treatments for Tonsilitis

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe your condition is.

Tonsillitis caused by a virus is treated differently from an infection caused by bacteria. Your healthcare provider may give you antibiotic medicine for a bacterial case of tonsillitis, while an antiviral medication will be prescribed if your tonsillitis is viral.

If your tonsillitis keeps coming back, your provider may advise surgery to remove your tonsils.

You may need treatment right away if you develop a peritonsillar abscess. A peritonsillar abscess is pus-filled tissue next to one of the tonsils that can block your airway.

What Sets Us Apart?

Our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physicians are trained in non-surgical and surgical treatment of diseases of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. They perform hundreds of procedures and surgeries every year, so your care is always in the hands of well-practiced experts.

As part of UR Medicine, our physicians are exposed to more complex conditions and unusual complications than most physicians in the Upstate New York region. Many of our physicians are also involved in research to find new treatments for ENT-related conditions. 

All our doctors are board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.


We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

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6 locations

Ear, Nose, & Throat - Batavia

7995 Call Parkway, Suite 100
Batavia, NY 14020

Ear, Nose, & Throat - Geneva

64 Elizabeth Blackwell Street, Suite A
Geneva, NY 14456

Ear, Nose, & Throat - North Greece

60 Greece Center Drive, Suite 2
Rochester, NY 14612

Ear, Nose, & Throat - Brighton

Clinton Woods
2365 South Clinton Avenue, Suite 200
Rochester, NY 14618

Pediatric Otolaryngology - Rochester

Lattimore Medical Center
125 Lattimore Road, East Entrance, Suite 100
Rochester, NY 14620

Ear, Nose, & Throat - Rochester

Highland Professional Office Building
990 South Avenue, Suite 207
Rochester, NY 14620

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