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Sore throats and tonsillitis 

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, which are the small glands found at the back of the throat behind the tongue. The function of these glands is not entirely clear but research suggests that they help to fight infections.

The main symptom of tonsillitis is a sore throat, but there may be several other symptoms including coughing, headaches and a fever. Tonsillitis often clears up on its own without the need for treatment, but in severe, or recurring cases, the tonsils may be removed in a procedure called a tonsillectomy.

Tonsillitis can be caused by either a virus or by bacteria, although most cases of the condition are viral. Children between 5-15 years of age are most likely to get tonsillitis, but it can affect anyone.

Tonsillitis can spread from person to person through throat or nasal fluids - this includes saliva, hand contact, or airborne droplets. The incubation period (the period between picking up the infection and symptoms starting to appear) is usually between 2-4 days.

Reproduced under the terms of Click-Use Licence number C2009000382. The content of this page has been published under a Click-Use Licence (link this to which covers the use of core Crown copyright information. The original material can be found on NHS Choices.