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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  1. Gud evening sir/madam

    My name is joy
    My left sidE tonsil Is swollen from 1 week with Out pain is This symptom of cancer? Plzz reply me sir/madam

    • This is not likely a symptom of cancer. It is possible that you have an infection. It would be beneficial for you to make an appointment with a medical professional at this time. It may be safer if you visit an emergency medical professional. They will be able to diagnose and treat your condition. Best of luck, Joy!

  2. I have a swollen tonsil only on one side since last week .It always recurs only on left side ,each time i take antibiotics and it gets cured but very slowly ,it takes as long as 3 weeks for me to recover .Because of this i usually have mouth ulcers and terrible pain in my left ear .I am 29 years old and i have this problem since a long time .It happens around 5times in a year .Please advise .

    • If you have not yet spoken with a medical professional, then do so. It is possible that this is caused by lifestyle influences. If you find that your tonsils seem to swell a certain time of year, after a particular food, or after you visited an unhygienic area, then that may be the cause. It will benefit you to make a journal of potential influences for your tonsils. Best of luck, Saba!

  3. Hi I am totally freaking out! My daughter was sick about 2 years ago and both of her tonsils became very swollen. Since that time she has had other colds and many ear infections. During this time her left tonsil went back to almost normal size while the left has remained a lot larger. Every time she goes to the doctor I ask about it and I am told that it is normal for one to stay enlarged in some kids as long as she has no other health issues or concerns. Her dentist hasn’t seemed concerned either. Bring me to last night, the doctor was checking my daughter because she had a small stye on her eye and checked everything else too (ears, nose mouth). This time the NP seemed a little concerned and said I should mention it my daughters physical tomorrow. She kept asking me not to google anything ans freak out because it is probably nothing but could be something. I decided to google and have read nothing but horror stories!! I am so freaked out and an emotional wreck over the thought that my little girl might have cancer!! Have you heard of kids having enlarged tonsils when sick and only one remaining enlarged with no symptoms for close to 2 years later? I am so worried that I listened to all these doctors and now it might be cancer that has been there for 2 years with no treatment! Help please!!

    • Neither the doctor or dentist are worried. You should not be concerned about anything that you find online. You should not be worried unless your doctor’s say that there is a problem. Reduce stress in your life at this time. Continue to monitor the symptoms that she is having. If there are any serious changes, then inform your medical professional. Have a great day, Jenn!

  4. I have had one swollen tonsil for 2 weeks now, been to the doctors 3 times and they prescribed me antibiotics. Done the course but still swollen and have slight ear pain every now and then, sometimes in my left, sometimes in my right.

    • Since you have completed the course and you still have symptoms, you should make another appointment with a medical professional. Continue to monitor your symptoms. Make an appointment, and if an appointment is more than a week out, then speak with a emergency medical professional. Best of luck, Gina!


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