The virus that causes tonsillitis can make people contagious for about seven to ten days, especially if untreated. If a doctor provides antibiotics, however, people will be contagious for only about 24 to 48 hours after starting treatment. Untreated bacterial tonsillitis can make a person contagious for up to two weeks. The condition affects the two oval-shaped areas of lymphoid tissue on the left and right sides of the throat, also called the palatine tonsils. Two lingual tonsils are at the base and back of the tongue. Bacteria that cause inflammation associated with tonsillitis can also attack the adenoids.
One of the first things a person with tonsillitis may notice is tender and enlarged lymph nodes in or near the throat. The tonsils will be reddish, and the inflammation may cause a sore throat and make it difficult to swallow. Once the condition starts to advance, a whitish, gray, or yellowish pus may appear on the surface of the tonsils. In some cases, the bacterial or viral infection causes fever and bad breath, chills, muscle aches, or fatigue. A medical practitioner can determine whether the cause is bacterial or viral, and ensure the patient receives the proper treatment. Untreated tonsillitis could have more dangerous outcomes including spread of the infection.
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