Swollen Tonsil on One Side

The tonsils are small lymph nodes situated right at the back of the throat. You can usually see them when you open your mouth wide and if they are inflamed, you will most definitely spot them, usually two swollen mounds at either side of the throat.

Occasionally, you might find that you only have swelling on one side of the throat – a swollen tonsil on one side only. Although this could be a sign of tonsillitis (which normally affects both sides rather than just one side), it could also be a sign of a couple of other conditions which will normally require some form of medical attention in order to treat them.

 swollen tonsil on one side

What Can Cause a Swollen Tonsil on One Side? 

Swollen Tonsil on One SideWe’ve already mentioned tonsillitis – one of the most common conditions which would cause swollen tonsils. When they become infected, they become very swollen and inflamed and this is when tonsillitis occurs, a condition that is very common in young children between the ages of 2 and 15 years of age.

Usually caused by a virus, or a bacteria called Streptococcus (or strep), it is often accompanied with a number of other symptoms including a very sore and red throat, bad react (halitosis), swelling of the neck, a weak voice, trouble breathing and swallowing, aches and pains, a fever and a decreased appetite.

The Streptococcus bacteria can also cause ‘strep-throat’, which carries the same symptoms as tonsillitis but can be passed on through coughing and sneezing.

If you think you have tonsillitis, a throat swab will confirm the diagnosis and then the condition can be treated with antibiotics. If the problem persists (especially in young children), the doctor may refer you for a tonsillectomy at which point the tonsils are removed and the problem should go away. In some rare cases, not all the tonsils are removed and they can grow back.

With both strep-throat and tonsillitis, the bacteria and viruses are spread through human-to-human contact so things like coughing, sneezing, touching, etc. The bacteria that causes tonsillitis can be active for a couple of weeks, and a viral infection is likely to be contagious for a slightly reduced length of time – seven to ten days.

Quinsy’ or Peritonsillar abscess as it is more formally known, is another reason why you might have a swollen tonsil on one side. This is a complication of tonsillitis and is a ball of pus collecting between the tonsil and the throat wall. An abscess forms, normally quite quickly, and it can spread the infection around the mouth and also around the body, especially if it ruptures or is not treated.

Treatment of quinsy normally involves a rather unpleasant combination of a very large needle and antibiotics. A doctor will drain the ball of pus in an attempt to get it all out but it can come back. With recurrent cases, a tonsillectomy is advised.



Quinsy will have very much the same kind of symptoms as strep throat and tonsillitis – a fever, aches and pains, headaches, sore throat, loss of appetite, etc. but can also come with a few more serious ones including difficult in breathing, a very high temperature, great difficulty and pain when trying to breathe or swallow, and a generally rather unwell feeling.

swollen tonsil on one side

What Can Be Used to Treat a Swollen Tonsil on One Side? 

The treatment of your swollen tonsil or tonsils will very much depend on the condition. In some cases, it’s as simple as antibiotics but in others, the treatment could go as far as surgery.

There are some at-home remedies you can try if you have a sore throat, swollen tonsils, or any of the other associated symptoms. Throat lozenges can be sucked which provide relief and there are some types which offer anesthetic properties to alleviate the pain even further. You can also buy throat-sprays which help to soothe the pain and treat the bacteria or virus too.

To give your voice a break for a while, you should try to avoid too much talking and definitely no shouting and if you can, try to rest as much as you can and reduce your stress levels. Smooth foods are easier to swallow and it is important to try and eat and drink as best you can. Your immune system won’t work effectively at fighting off the bugs if it isn’t in tip-top condition itself and to achieve that, you need to make sure you have nourished it.

When to Seek Medical Advice 

Although common, a swollen tonsil on one side is something you will want to get checked out by a doctor. This is even more so the case if you have accompanying symptoms such as a high temperature, a rash over the body, no improvement after a couple of days of treatment, very dark-colored urine, difficult breathing or swollen and painful joints.



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39 COMMENTS

  1. I have pharyngitis 1months back I visit to my doctor and he prescribed me antibiotics. After using those medicine my pain and symptoms goes away but after 7 days it’s reoccur.. then I tried homeopathy symptoms goes away again but it’s now reoccurring after 5 days..What should I do now…

    • Did you finish your entire course of antibiotics? Some people stop taking their medication after they start to feel better, but this allows some of the bacteria that remain to return. Since your symptoms have returned, you should go back to your doctor. If you are given another course of antibiotics, make sure to take the entire prescription as directed. As for homeopathy–I would hold off on it. It is unlikely to actually help, other than the placebo effect, especially when you are dealing with a bacterial infection.

  2. Three weeks ago I came down with a bug of some kind (fever, ache, sore throat, congestion) I felt it coming on a few days before it hit a 72 hour peak. I’m mostly better apart from one tonsil that remains swollen. It still hurts to swallow, at times it affects my ability to talk or it’ll feel like I have a tickle in my throat that causes me to cough to the point of needing to spit. It seems to inflame more at night and in the morning.

    • While it should have stopped being swollen by now, it could just be from the infection. If it is causing you problems like coughing, you may want to go to your doctor to make sure that there isn’t another problem at fault. Your last infection may just be hanging around a bit longer than you would like, but it would be worth it to go to a doctor just to make sure.

  3. Day 6 of trying to fight whatever I have alone..Yea pretty crazy I know I’m definitely regretting it thought it would be gone by now.stated feeling off last Thursday throat started hurting on left side got weak later on laid down woke up with high fever chills..Got up went upstairs legs felt so heavy like weights on my feet..nose is full of nasty thick stuff got a sudden feeling of nausea threw up..2nd day wow horrible pain all over body in tears now so thirsty but cold water seemed to.trigger nausea but took a swig and boom threw up yellow again due to.not eating bc appetite lost! Fever chills shaking and overly tired but hey in my head it’s almost over b tough ahhhhhhh..Throat is hurting cover in white on both sides but only pain in left still..I felt I could taste my throat like I had a horrible taste in my mouth from throat and mucas..Left side sill a lil swollen and hurting.3rd day finally showered bc all them days I sweated like crazy which made me cold ..And I started doing things around the house like yep it’s almost done still a lot of white.4th day feeling pretty good white is almost all gone no other symptoms remaining til night comes my left side starts hurting again and it gradually gets worse morning comes and I cannot talk really in this being the fifth day and I’m just in agonizing pain like left side is so swollen it’s up into the roof of my mouth wisdom tooth area and I cannot swollow good.day 6 today still very swollen and in pain the left side of my face even looks swollen my ear is itchy and my jaw is uncomfortable and I haven’t been able to open my mouth too wide these last two days..Day 7 is coming should I ride it out since I’ve come this far or should i go to the er or schedule an appointment? I really thought this was gonna be an any day now type thing and I know it’s not always good to take antibiotics but maybe I need them… Help

    • You should make an appointment at this time. It may be reasonable for you to visit an emergency room. You do not want to risk your health. Continue to monitor the symptoms that you are experiencing. If you find that your symptoms become intense or last another few days, then speak with a medical professional. Best of luck, Christina!

  4. I have never had tonsil problems, but I was yelling and screaming on Thursday and Friday. I woke up Saturday with a sore throat. It has gradually eased up, but I did notice my right tonsil looks a little inflamed. Today, Monday, i had a fever of 99.

    • If you fever increases, then speak with a medical professional at an emergency room. Continue to monitor your experiences. If your painful sensations increase, then make an appointment with a doctor. Take note of the changes that you experience so you can better answer their questions. Best of luck, Stef!

  5. i get tonseltis a few time a year, its been happening since i was 12 and im 19 currently, usually eat popcicals for the swelling and i dont feel like crap afterwards

    • Thank you for sharing the technique that you treat yourself with. You may want to speak with a medical professional about your concerns. If you have visited them and they have not helped you, then you may want to begin making a journal to record your experiences. Record when you get sick and what foods you eat. See if there is anything that seems to trigger your experiences. Best of luck, Lizzie!

  6. I had terrible pain in my left tonsil for a day and when I looked I saw pus all over it. I went to the doctor immediately the next day and he also said I had tonsillitis. He gave me an antibiotic and sent me on my way. I started taking it that afternoon but that night into the early morning my symptoms got much worse. And I spent the 3rd day dealing with 100 degree fever chills headache terrible throat pain and tonsil pain. Basically I’ve been on the mediciation for almost 2 days but I’m noticing my other tonsil is starting to feel funny like it could also be getting the infection. The doctor stands by the medicine he gave me and I guess it’s a little soon to be questioning it, but what is your opinion? Also when do you start feeling some relief from the throat pain? I just want a tiny bit of relief. The swollen tonsil pain is almost too much for me to handle. Thank you!

    • Continue to follow the instructions of your doctor. Your doctor is correct, you will not immediately have your problem disappear. Continue to monitor your experiences. If you are still in pain in three more days, then go back to speak with your medical professional. You may want to take a pain reliever at this time. Best of luck, Lindsey!

  7. Had bad cold with lots of mucous. Started feeling better then left tonsil swollen with white spots. Chills fever and hard to swallow.

    • If you have white spots and a swollen tonsil, then make an appointment with a medical professional. It is possible that you have a serious medical concerns. Continue to monitor your experiences. If you get worse, then go to the doctor immediately. Best of luck, Connie!

  8. My left tonsil has swollen up 3 times in the past month, the first I was diagnosed with the flu and a throat infection, the second I was diagnosed with a throat infection, and each time I was given a round of antibiotics, in which I finished, but recently my allergies started flaring up, and sure enough my left tonsil swelled up, within a matter of around a day and a half! What could it be?? By the way, strep was ruled out both times…

    • Make another medical appointment at this time. Speak with your doctor about your concerns. You may have another problem that has not been treated. If you doctor does not solve your problem this time, then perhaps you should visit another doctor. Best of luck, David!

  9. I’m 21 yrs old. I finished my antibiotics last week, as prescribed by the doctor. I felt better. Then after a few days, my left tonsil started to hurt again. But this time, there are no other symptoms (unlike last time with fever and sore throat). I’m okay, except for the slight pain. Will it go away eventually? Or is it only from stress and weak immune system since I’ve been really busy studies and board exams that I’m not able to take care of myself. Do I need to consult the doctor again? (Is it even normal for tonsillitis to heal slowly? Will they operate on it? Aaah, I’m getting paranoid) Thank you so much!

    • It may just be due to your recent illness. If you are still busy with your studies and stressed out though, it would be very easy for your body to become ill again. If you continue to experience this symptom or other symptoms start as well, you may have to go back to your doctor because you could have caught another cold. When your exams are done, you should probably take a well-needed rest and focus on getting your immune system back to normal. Good luck, Yin!

  10. My daughter is almost 13 three-four months ago took antibiotics for what we were told was tonsillitis. Which was only on one side. After about 6/8 weeks was still swollen went back and Dr said oh it is just slow in going down and no infection is there and sent us away, well it’s still swollen and no different. Yes time to go back again but worried we will be sent away again.

    • You may want to speak with a different doctor. They may give another round of antibiotics or treat her for a more serious infection. Make an appointment at this time. Best of luck, Mel!

  11. I’m 20 years old, and I had a strep throats for a week and I felt good for about 3 days and today I woke up with a swollen side of my mouth and it hurt to swallow saliva. I have no symptoms like no fever no nothing what can it be??

    • It could be related to strep throat. Depending on where the swelling is, it could also be your lymph nodes. Have you been diagnosed by your doctor and given antibiotics? Make sure to take your full course of antibiotics so that the bacteria is actually killed completely. If you have not received antibiotics, you should go to your doctor to be diagnosed so that complications do not end up happening.

  12. I dont know whether my left side tonsils is swellon or not bt litrally it painful
    No fever no weight loss
    Bt I really in very fear I think whole day it might be cancer pls help

    • If it suddenly became swollen, it is probably not from cancer. More likely, it is caused by an infection like strep throat. You should go to your doctor, explain any symptoms that you have and get a diagnosis. Good luck and stay safe, Ganesh!

  13. I am 28 and I just started having severe pain and swelling on my right tonsil 2 days ago. I have NO other symptoms. The pain feels like it’s radiating through my ear, jaw and neck on that side. I went to the clinic yesterday and strep was ruled out, I didn’t have a fever, or body aches, she still prescribed my amoxicillin to fill if I need to and just told me to take pain meds. Well I filled the antibiotics yesterday and started taking it today. The pain is horrible I can barely move my head to the side and to swallow is very painful. I have had strep several times before and have a very low immune system. I have Crohn’s disease and take Humira bi-weekly. I have had nose bleeds for years but have never gotten that checked out. I’ve been reading up on swelling of tonsils and I’m getting concerned. Should I wait and see how the antibiotics work or go ahead and make appointment with my normal physician?

    • You should make an appointment at this time. Continue to take the medication. You will want to continue to monitor the experiences that you are having so you can better answer your doctor’s questions. If you find that the appointment is going to be more than a few days out, then you may want to go to an emergency room. Best of luck, Danielle!

  14. I’m 13 and my right tonsil and my lymph nodes in my neck are inflamed. I’ve been having tonsil problems for about 2 years,and I have never went to the doctor about it. I have reddish like bumps around the right tonsil, there was also tonsil stones. I’ve been very dizzy, light-headed, I’ve been having headaches, and I get very hot then very cold. it hurts to swallow and yawn. I don’t know if this is connected but I woke up to the part of my back were my lungs are really hurting. What do I do? And what is this?

    • Make an appointment with a medical professional at this time. You do not want to wait to seek medical attention as it is possible that your inflammation may be a sign of an infection or serious medical ailment. Speak with your parents immediately. Best of luck, Luxy!

  15. So I’m 21 years old and a few days ago I had a pain in my right side of my throat. Well then it got where it hurt to swallow anything. I have occasionally pain radiating from it through into my ear. My tonsils don’t look like they are swollen or anything. I have a small headache

    • Continue to monitor your experiences. If they get worse or continue for more than a few days, then make an appointment with a medical professional. They will be able to give you tests and advice. Best of luck, Brittany!

  16. I’m 16 years old and agirl, I’ve struggled with tonsil stones just to point out. So lately my left tonsil has felt alittle bigger and is sore, the flesh part below my ear and just below my jaw bone is sore too if you push on it and it’s the same side of my face as the sore tonsil, I’m alittle scared, what do you think it could be?? I’ve felt only a tad bit congested lately and I’ve felt alittle dehydrated too If that helps at all

    • Make an appointment immediately. Monitor your experiences as you move forward so you can better answer your doctor’s questions. Explain that you want the appointment as soon as possible. Stay safe and best of luck, Ashley!

  17. Im 30. I just came home from the hospital this morning and they didnt say nothing about my tonsil. Yes they checked my mouth. They said i have a sore throat and send ne home. So when i gor him i puked. When i finished i started spitting up blood. Didnt think much of it cuz it wasnt alot and i didntbeat much that day do its was all liquid. So i slept. Woke up 4 hour later. Voice changed, felt a little better so i smoked some thc. So i decided to say down and take a nap. I notice that every time i breathe in from my mouth ibwould here a whistling noise.so i have a ruptured tonsil and i just notice now. What should i do?

    • Go back to your doctor. If you were spitting up blood, then you want to speak with a doctor. The heat and particles of smoke have the potential to cause harm to your systems. Smoking marijuana has the potential to cause harm in capacities due to the inhalation of the smoke itself. Make an appointment as soon as you are able to do so. Best of luck, Rob!

  18. I am a 35 year old male. I have had a swollen tonsil for longer than I can remember. More than 8 years. All of my doctors stated if it is not bothering you then don’t bother getting them taken out. As of August I recently stopped smoking and using all nicotine products and started to withdraw pretty hard. I visited an ENT due to my past nicotine use. My ENT told me that he is concerned that I might have lymphoma due to the size of my tonsil and lymph node in my neck. He also stated that he would like to observe and have a follow up with me 3 months later. Hell three months later has come and past and now I am getting a biopsy of my lymph node to rule out lymphoma and other cancers. I am just wondering if one swollen tonsil is a sign of cancer wouldn’t the doctors have been more concerned and wouldn’t it have spread and continue to grow over the years?

    • It would be unwise for me to state whether or not they could have known whether or not it was cancerous. It is likely that all of your doctors believe that it was only your tonsil. You can speak with your previous doctors if you want to. Best of luck with your current situation. You have our best wishes. Have a great day, Gary!

  19. Well, I’m a 46yrs young female. I’ve had one swollen tonsil for SIX YEARS with absolutely NO symptoms. I discovered it one day by feeling a slight “thing” in my throat so I took a flashlight and saw it. At that time it looked like a clean shiney piece of skin stretched into more of a ball shape. My throat doctor ruled out any of the above with tests. He has stated on both my visits…”if it’s not getting bigger or bothering you in any way….we’ll just leave it alone.” Now it’s elongated almost like it’s starting to mirror the Palatopharyngeal arch. My urine test results came back with a high number of squamous epithelial cells but it’s common for lab results to have been contaminated. But – it does make me wonder if it’s something more serious but taking years to fully develop into something life threatening.

    • If your doctor has ruled out other causes, then follow his advice and just watch the swollen tonsil. There are risks to surgeries as well, so there is no need to put your body through those risks if there isn’t anything majorly wrong. I would continue to pay attention to your tonsils to make sure they do not become bigger–you may even want to take a picture or two to make sure that you can easily see any size changes over a few months.

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