9 Non-Surgical Options for Tonsillitis Relief

9 Non-Surgical Options for Tonsillitis Relief

Tonsillitis, which is the medical term for inflammation accompanied by red appearance and painful swelling of the tonsils, can be caused by either viral or bacterial infection. The swelling that comes tonsillitis (the medical term is tonsillar hypertrophy) can cause such symptoms as obstructed breathing, abnormal nasal and sinus drainage, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and even such dangerous problems as sleep apnea.

Most cases of tonsillitis are temporary, although if you have frequent recurrences, or if the condition is chronic, your doctor could recommend surgery to remove the tonsils (the procedure is known as tonsillectomy). Your doctor will most likely collect a sample of tissue to help determine whether your tonsillitis is caused by strep throat (or other bacterial infection) or a virus. If the cause is viral, the strategy is to wait as the infection runs its course, using the remedies described below to help relieve symptoms while your body fights the infection.

Bacterial infections are typically treated using antibiotics. Non-surgical choices of relief of symptoms during recovery include the following:


Gargling a salty water solution of 1 tablespoon salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water can help soothe a sore throat. If you choose to try this gargle and spit routine, remember not to swallow the solution, or you could upset your stomach.

Warm foods and beverages

Sipping warm liquids such as broth, tea or warm water with honey, and eating warm foods of soft consistency can provide relief.


Get plenty of sleep! It’s much too easy in our busy world to get in the habit of sleeping too little. When you’re healthy, 7 hours is a good average to shoot for; if you’re sick with cold, tonsillitis or flu, treat yourself right by resting more than average.

Drink plenty of fluids

You’ll feel much better as the tonsillitis runs its course, to keep your throat moist. Taking lots of liquids – but not diuretics like coffee or tea, also helps to prevent dehydration.

Cold foods

Eating cold foods such as popsicles or ice cream can also help to ease sore throat pain and discomfort associated with tonsillitis.

Lozenges and throat sprays

These remedies coat and moisturize your throat and some contain a topical anesthetic for temporary relief of pain. Be sure to check with your doctor before giving lozenges or cough drops to children, because of the risk of choking.


Dry air can irritate your already sore throat. A steam vaporizer or a humidifier might help provide some relief. If these aren’t available, consider sitting in a steamy bathroom for several minutes at a time.

Avoid irritants

Exposure to tobacco smoke, cooking vapors, dust or pet dander can make you feel worse, and slow your recovery – it’s best to keep clear of these. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help with quitting.

Non-prescription pain relievers

As with all medicines, be careful not to take more than recommended amounts – overdoses can have severe medical consequences. Acetaminophen (sold under such brands as Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil is one of many brands) can be used as directed to relieve pain and fever, and some inflammation.