Tonsillitis and Ear Pain When Swallowing (Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment)

Tonsillitis is an issue in neck glands, it causes an infection of the tonsils. They are a part of the immune system and are located on either side of the back of the throat.

They, like the rest of the immune system, contain cells to ambush and destroy bacteria and viruses moving within the body. Tonsillitis is common in children, but it can occur at any age.

When the main site of infection is within the tonsils, they swell, and become red, may show a surface coating of white spots.

The symptoms of the condition are a pain in the throat and trouble swallowing. Tonsillitis is a self-limiting condition and gets better without treatment or complications. 

Tonsil stones are debris that gets hard & forms a tonsil stone. As nerve pathways are shared, they may cause a person to feel discomfort in the ear, even though the stone itself is not touching the ear.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

  • Pain in the throat that may not clear up in 48 hours
  • Problems in swallowing; pain may spread to the ears
  • Reddened throat, the tonsils are swollen
  • Maybe coated or have white spots on them
  • Lymph glands may swell under the jaw and in the neck
  • Possibly a high temperature
  • Headache
  • Loss of voice or changes in the voice

If the sore throat is due to a viral infection the symptoms are milder and related to the common cold. If due to Coxsackie virus infection, small blisters form on the tonsils and roof of the mouth. The blisters eject in a few days and are accompanied by a scab, which may be very painful.

If the sore throat is due to streptococcal infection, the tonsils swell and become coated. The patient may have fever, foul-smelling breath and may feel very sick.

These different conditions are very variable, and it’s impossible to tell by just looking at someone’s throat whether the infection is due to a virus or a bacterial infection.

How does the doctor make a diagnosis?

An expert doctor makes the diagnosis from the symptoms and signs of the disease as well as analyze certain markers. They may be from a swab of the secretions of the throat and maybe a blood sample is required to identify the cause.

What complications may arise?

Well, a throat infection, such as tonsillitis, causes no pain and only lasts about a week. But the following complications can arise if the condition is left untreated.

  • A secondary infection may develop in the middle ear or sinuses
  • If you have streptococcus infection, there may be a rash or sore throat
  • An unusual complication is a throat abscess that occurs only on one side. If it becomes sufficiently large; this may need surgical drainage
  • In very rare cases, diseases like rheumatic fever or particular kidney disease can occur. This is rarely observed now than it was several decades ago

How can you treat tonsillitis & ear pain when swallowing?

If you’re want to get rid of the problem, try the following at-home remedies or  treatment tips to treat tonsillitis:

  • Warm drinks, soft food and the use of throat lozenges and/or mouthwash may ease swallowing problems; a pharmacist can advise on appropriate OTC remedies
  • Drink plenty of fluids; a sore throat can discourage swallowing, but in tonsillitis, it’s common to lose a lot of body fluid through fever and mouth breathing
  • ensure you have adequate rest and stay in a warm environment
  • If difficulty in swallowing and high fever or vomiting is persistent, then you should consult a general physician

In the majority of people, an infection caused by a virus infection need only be treated with paracetamol to bring the temperature down. Aspirin is useful, but should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless stated otherwise by a doctor.

In a small minority of cases, tonsillitis from bacteria is treated with penicillin or erythromycin if the person is allergic to penicillin. If antibiotics are prescribed, it’s essential to finish the full course, or the infection may not be cured.

Antibiotics are recommended for patients who are receiving chemotherapy.

Surgery to remove the tonsils may be essential for those patients suffering from severe infections that refuse to respond to treatment, occur repeatedly and significantly interfere with their college or work schedule. But it’s now a relatively less recommended compared to previous practice.