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4 Home Remedies For Tonsillitis

If you feel like you’re swallowing glass with every sip of water, or as though there’s a lump in your throat that won’t go away, then you might have tonsillitis.

In most cases, tonsillitis symptoms usually subside within 3 to 4 days. However, if the symptoms are getting worse, you have developed a fever, or pus-filled spots have appeared at the back of your throat, then it’s best to book an appointment with your primary care provider.

In the meantime, we do have some at home remedies for tonsillitis that can help ease any pain or discomfort.

Keep reading to learn how long tonsillitis lasts, whether tonsillitis is contagious, and ways of treating tonsillitis at home.

How long does tonsillitis last?

Knowing how long tonsillitis lasts in typical cases is important to understanding whether or not you need to seek further treatment for your pain and discomfort.

The short answer is tonsillitis will typically improve within a week, without the need for medication. However, in some cases of a bacterial tonsillitis infection, a prescription might be required.

If your symptoms haven’t gone away after four days or the problem keeps coming back, then it is best to see a doctor who will be able to give advice and medicine, where necessary. Similarly, if you’re in so much pain that it’s difficult to speak, eat, or drink, then you need to book an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible.

Should you doctor prescribe antibiotics, always take the entire course to get rid of tonsillitis properly, even if you feel better before the course has finished. This is important for your recovery as, if antibiotic tonsillitis treatment is stopped mid-course, the infection might be partially treated, and there is a risk of resistance to that antibiotic if the tonsillitis infection returns.

Is tonsillitis contagious?

If your symptoms aren’t too severe or you’re on the mend with a course of antibiotics, you may be wondering whether tonsillitis is contagious and if you could infect others, should you go back to work or socialise with friends, and, finally, how long is tonsillitis contagious for.

Essentially, the viral or bacterial infection that causes tonsillitis is contagious and spreads by close physical contact, or by droplets in the air. Much like when you have the flu, it’s best to do the following to avoid infecting other people:

  • Practice good hand hygiene with soap and water (or alcohol gel).
  • Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing and put it in the bin.
  • Avoid close personal contact.
  • Avoid sharing glasses or utensils with other people.

Treating tonsillitis at home

Waiting for tonsillitis to clear up can feel difficult when you’re in discomfort. And, while you can’t directly fight the infection, there are ways of treating tonsillitis at home to manage your discomfort.

For pain management, you can pick up paracetamol or ibuprofen from most supermarkets and pharmacies. Antiseptic throat sprays are also a good tonsillitis relief as they numb the affected area.

Similarly, should your child has tonsillitis, then paracetamol or ibuprofen can help relieve any pain they might be experiencing. You should also encourage your little one to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest to aid their recovery.  

If you’re the one suffering the symptoms, there are also some home remedies for tonsillitis to help soothe your throat and keep pain to a minimum:

1. Gargle salt water

A tonsil salt water gargle is a quick and easy way of treating tonsillitis at home. It can ease the more painful symptoms, as well potentially stopping your discomfort from getting any worse.

To do this tonsillitis treatment, simply put half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water and mix gently until the salt has completely dissolved. Gargle the salt water in the back of your throat, making sure to spit it out and not swallow any of the mixture.

You can repeat this step as often as you like, but it might be helpful to set a routine. Try this home remedy for tonsillitis when you wake up, once again in the mid-afternoon, and then one final time before you go to bed.

2. Drink honey and ginger tea

Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, honey and ginger tea is a great at home remedy for swollen tonsils. A mug of this mixture can help soothe your tonsillitis, easing swelling in your throat.

For convenience, you can buy pre-mixed honey and ginger or teas - which are great for keeping with you on the go. However, it is simple enough to make your own home remedy for tonsillitis using honey and ginger and just a bit of hot water.

Once peeled, chop, or grate a tablespoon of root ginger and drop it into a mug. Then, add in 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey and pour in hot water. Allow a couple minutes for the tea to brew and cool slightly before drinking to soothe tonsillitis.

3. Stay hydrated

Of course, staying hydrated is always important, but it is especially so when your body is fighting off an illness or infection.

Not drinking enough water can lead to headaches and tiredness, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to treat tonsillitis at home. The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water, you should drink 6 to 8 glasses a day (this includes that soothing honey and ginger tea too).

If you are able, you can also help soothe tonsillitis by eating soft foods like soups, porridge, eggs, and yogurt that won’t irritate your tonsils or throat. If you need something more substantial and chewing isn’t too difficult for you, foods like soft-baked potatoes and vegetables are easy to eat and full of energy-boosting nutrients to help you get rid of tonsillitis at home.

4. Get plenty of rest

While, you may be searching for tonsillitis home remedies to get rid of tonsillitis as fast as possible, a key remedy for any illness is giving yourself plenty of time for rest- and treating tonsillitis is no exception.

It’s usually a good idea to take time off work until you start to feel better. Not only will this tonsillitis treatment avoid the spread of the virus, but rest will give your body every chance to heal properly and as fast as it possibly can.

Make sure you are getting a good and full night’s sleep, and you’re not forcing yourself to stay awake in the day, if your body feels like it needs a rest.

When is tonsillitis an emergency?

Tonsillitis is usually nothing to worry about and will clear up with time and, where necessary, antibiotics. However, there are some cases that may need tonsillitis emergency treatment.

When a bacterial infection, such as tonsillitis, spreads to surrounding areas, it can cause an abscess to form between one of your tonsils and the wall of your throat. This is called quinsy.

So, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms alongside the more common symptoms of tonsillitis, you should ring 999 or go to A&E for tonsillitis emergency treatment:

  • A severe sore throat that is rapidly getting worse.
  • Your mouth and throat are swollen.
  • You’re having trouble talking.
  • You are unable to swallow.
  • Breathing has become difficult.
  • Opening your mouth is hard.

Feel ready to try our tonsillitis home remedies? Or maybe you’d like to explore our other articles on treating everyday illnesses at home, such as our best foods for cold and flu or our hay fever home remedies? You can always find helpful advice and information on our Be Healthy hub!

Medically reviewed in October 2023.