Man considering tonsil removal for adults

If you're dealing with a sore throat, you may just attribute it to singing too much or a yearly cold. However, frequent sore throats could be a symptom of something more significant: tonsil issues. You may have heard about children having these problems, but can adults have tonsil infections? If so, what can be done about it?

What are symptoms of tonsil infections?

Tonsillitis, or tonsil inflammation, can be brought on by bacteria or viruses. Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Throat pain
  • Swollen glands around the neck
  • Bad breath

Why are infectious tonsil issues more common in children than adults?

Recurring tonsil infections tend to happen in children ages 5 to 15. A variety of factors could explain this prevalence, including greater exposure to viruses and bacteria with their peers and fewer hygienic habits. As a result, children are more likely to get sick than adults, including bouts of tonsillitis.

Can adults get tonsil infections?

Even though children are more at risk of swollen or enlarged tonsils, adults can also have the same conditions. The most common bacterial cause of tonsillitis in adults is strep throat, although the flu, common cold, and a variety of other viruses and bacteria are also risk factors.

Just like children, being in closed quarters can bring about these infections. During colder months, you are less likely to be outside in open spaces, so your proximity to those with illnesses can increase at the office or at home. That's not to say that tonsil infections are contagious, but rather that you are more likely to be exposed to viruses and bacteria that can create these tonsil issues.

Can adults also receive a tonsillectomy?

Infrequent tonsil infections can be treated with medicines at home with guidance by your physician. If you are experiencing recurring infections, then you may be a candidate for tonsil removal. The process is the same for adults as it is for kids, albeit with a longer recovery period. Patients who receive this procedure on average experience fewer instances of sore throats compared to their peers who opted not to have the surgery. "Recurrent bacterial tonsil infections are miserable for patients and respond well to tonsillectomy," Dr. Adam Gigliotti, a CEENTA otolaryngologist who practices out of our Uptown office, remarks. "The most important step is having your doctor help you determine if your sore throats are related to bacterial infections in the tonsils, or if they are more consistent with viral upper respiratory infections, which tend to be more common, resolve without antibiotics, and can still occur after tonsillectomy."

Dr. Christopher Tebbit, a CEENTA ENT physician from our Belmont location, concurs. “Recovery from tonsillectomy as an adult is associated with significant discomfort, but this short-term discomfort is worth it for patients who have frequent tonsil infections meeting indications for surgery” said Dr. Christopher Tebbit, a CEENTA otolaryngologist who practices out of our Belmont office.

If you are persistently dealing with tonsil infections as an adult, CEENTA can provide the relief you both need. Our board-certified team of ENT specialists can examine your tonsils for common infections and recommend surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Schedule your next appointment with CEENTA today to experience a century of tonsil care.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, you may schedule online, through myCEENTAchart, or by calling 704-295-3000.


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