More than just tonsillitis, this is an abscess in and around the tonsils. We suspect this over and above a simple sore throat when there’s:
- High fever
- Patient can barely open their mouth
- Maybe drooling
- We see swelling in front of one tonsil (maybe can’t see the tonsil itself), and the uvula is pushed toward the opposite side (the uvula is the small finger-like flap that hangs in the back of the throat in the middle)
Mild cases may get better with antibiotics. But sometimes it’s necessary for a specialist to drain the abscess with syringe & needle, usually done in the ER since the patient is pretty sick.
If a patient with sore throat so sick they’re drooling, neck bent forward, we never examine the throat. They might have Epiglottitis (infection of the epiglottis, see Diagram — Upper Respiratory Tract). If so, the least little gag might cause spasm of the trachea (tube to the lungs), cutting off air & causing death.