We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Most Common Causes of Sore Tonsils?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated Jan 24, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

When a person has sore tonsils, it is usually a sign that there is an infection in the body. Many different things can cause tonsils to become painful, including bacterial infections and viruses. If a person has tonsils that are red and irritated, it may be because of a cold, tonsillitis, or strep throat. Other illnesses such as upper respiratory problems and sinus issues can also cause tonsils to become inflamed.

Tonsillitis is probably the most common cause of an individual having sore tonsils. Most people who have this medical problem have a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. A doctor will typically diagnose tonsillitis after examining the patient and ordering a throat culture. If the tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, the physician most likely will prescribe antibiotics. For tonsillitis caused by a virus, however, the doctor will usually just give the person something for the fever and suggest fluids and rest.

Sinus infections can also cause a person to have sore tonsils because of sinus drainage. Sometimes, if a person has irritated sinuses, he will have nasal drip and mucus that drains into the back of the throat. As the person swallows, the mucus can get on the tonsils, causing soreness. Since there is no actual infection in the tonsils, the doctor will probably just treat the sinus infection.

Strep throat, which is a bacterial infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, is another reason why some people have sore tonsils. This highly contagious condition can be extremely painful and presents with symptoms such as a sore throat, swollen tonsils, and fever. The person may even have difficulty swallowing due to the enlarged tonsils. Doctors can diagnose this illness with a strep test and a physical exam. Individuals are generally given antibiotics and may be told to use an over-the-counter throat spray or lozenges to relieve pain.

Allergies can also result in sore tonsils when a person is around something that may cause him to have a reaction. People who are allergic to pet hair, pet dander, and dust will often find that they will have sore throats, irritated tonsils, and runny noses. A visit to an allergy specialist can often rule out an infection and narrow down what the person is allergic to. The specialist may recommend allergy shots or pills to help keep allergies under control.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Aug 12, 2014

@Pippinwhite -- I've had those before. Not fun. When I was a kid, I used to get tonsilitis, and it always seemed to start with my ears itching, and what felt like more drainage. I could usually tell maybe the day before the real symptoms started that something was on the horizon. If I could get started on antibiotics then, I would usually escape the worst of it, but if not, I would generally be sick for a couple of days.

I've also had irritated tonsils in the spring with the onset of the pollen appearing. My throat invariably gets sore then, too.

By Pippinwhite — On Aug 11, 2014

If you're like me and you have tonsils as an adult, and they are rather porous, you can get tonsil stones, which can also irritate the tonsils and make them sore.

I'll get them every so often. Essentially, they're tiny crumbs of food that have lodged in one of the tonsil's pores, and the body builds up a kind of mucus barrier around them. They're kind of yucky.

I can usually tell when I have one because it feels like I'm itching, down deep in my ears. It's weird, but that's what it feels like. Then, I can look at my tonsils and see a stone, usually. When the stone comes out, the itching and soreness go away almost immediately.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.