/ Tonsillitis
Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

What Is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is a viral or bacterial infection that causes inflammation and swelling of the tonsils. Regardless of what pathogen is infecting the tonsils, tonsillitis is contagious.

About 70% of tonsillitis cases are caused by cold viruses such as andenovirus, rhinovirus, influeza, and others.

The remaining cases of tonsillitis are bacterial, mostly streptococcus (strep throat).

Is Tonsillitis Contagious?

The viruses and bacteria that cause tonsillitis are contagious.

Is tonsillitis contagious by air? Yes. tonsillitis can be spread by infected people coughing or sneezing droplets into the air and another person breathing them in.

Is tonsillitis contagious by direct and indirect contact? Yes. Tonsillitis can be spread by kissing; also by touching contaminated objects, such as a door handle, and then touching the face, nose, or mouth.

Is tonsillitis contagious in children? Tonsillitis is just as contagious for children as it is for adults. In fact, the majority of tonsillitis cases occur in children and teenagers.

How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious For?

Length of contagion depends on the infection. Tonsillitis from a virus might last from 7 to 10 days, whereas tonsillitis from bacteria might last for several weeks (shorter if treated with antibiotics for tonsillitis). As an approximation, a person with tonsillitis will remain contagious for the duration of their symptoms.

Is tonsillitis contagious during incubation? Incubation is the time between contact with the pathogen and development of symptoms. For tonsillitis this typically takes 2 to 4 days. Tonsillitis is contagious for the last 1 to 2 days of incubation. If you think you have come in contact with something that could cause tonsillitis, assume that you are contagious for up to four days even if no symptoms are present.

Tips to avoid spreading tonsillitis:

  • Wash hands following recommended guidelines, particularly after touching the face, nose, or hands; before eating or cooking; and after using the bathroom.
  • Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Do not cough into open air and avoid coughing into your hands.
  • Stay at home until symptoms of tonsillitis go away.
  • Do not share objects such as drinking glasses, utensils, water bottles, or food with other people.

Anatomy of the tonsils

There are several types of tonsils in the body, all are made of lymphoid tissue and help the body fight off infections. Most tonsils have crypts, small pits that store blood cells and antibodies that help prevent infections.

Types of tonsils:

  • Palatine tonsils — located in the back of the mouth on each side of the throat. Tonsils, when unspecified, refers to this type of tonsil. Tonsillitis refers to infection of the palatine tonsils.
  • Lingual tonsils — located at the base of the tongue in the back of the mouth.
  • Tubal tonsils — located on the wall of the pharynx near the opening to the eustachian tubes.
  • Pharyngeal tonsils — located in the back of the nasal cavity, does not have crypts.

If you think you are suffering from tonsillitis you are likley contagious and should book an appointment with a PlushCare physician today to get a prescription online.

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Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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