What Causes Swollen Tonsil on One Side?

Swollen Tonsil on One Side

The tonsils (palatine tonsils) are the small lymph nodes situated at the back of the throat (pharynx). They help prevent the infections coming through the mouth and nose.

Sometimes your tonsils can get inflamed on only one side or both sides. But, what does it mean when you notice swollen tonsil on one side?

The enlarged tonsil on one side may be an indication of bacterial or viral infections. Swollen and inflamed tonsil is common in children aged two to fifteen, but it can affect adults too.

There are numerous reasons why you may be having one swollen tonsil. In this article, we will discuss the possible reasons and natural treatments to cure swollen tonsil on one side.

Also Read: Lump in the Throat (Globus Sensation)

Possible Reasons for Swollen Tonsil on One Side

Infections can make both the tonsils swell. A swollen tonsil on just one side of the mouth isn’t very common, but there are a few causes for it. They are:

1. Peritonsillar Abscess

A peritonsillar abscess is when pus collects between the tonsil and the throat wall. It is also known as quinsy. Peritonsillar abscess is uncommon and could be a serious consequence of tonsillitis. It results from a bacterial infection that spreads from the tonsil to the surrounding region of the mouth (1).

Peritonsillar abscess is common in adolescents and young adults, and it can keep on recurring. You may also experience this condition if the saliva glands under the tongue become inflamed.

2. Strep Throat

Strep throat can also be a cause of having only one swollen tonsil. Also known as Streptococcus, this condition is common in children aged five to fifteen. However, it can affect people of all ages (2).

Strep throat may cause swelling and inflammation of the tonsils. It is extremely contagious and spreads through sneezing and coughing. People can carry strep throat without showing any symptoms.

3. Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is inflammation and swelling of your tonsils. It affects children and adults of all ages. Viral or bacterial infections are common causes of this condition (3).

Tonsillitis can be contagious if it’s due to bacterial infection. It can be contagious for up to two weeks. If it is due to a viral infection, it can be contagious for up to seven to ten days.

Some diseases linked to tonsillitis are:

  • Streptococcus bacteria
  • Influenza virus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Enterovirus
  • Adenovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus

Possible Symptoms Associated with One Swollen Tonsil

Having one swollen tonsil can come with many symptoms. The symptoms associated with it can help you to recognize which condition you may be suffering from.

1. Peritonsillar Abscess

When you have a peritonsillar abscess, following are the symptoms that you need to check:

  • Swollen mouth or throat
  • Fever: It usually comes about pretty quickly indicating something is off
  • Chills: Aches and chills are common when there is infection
  • Bad breath: It is often linked to an oral condition
  • Earache
  • Difficulty swallowing: Your mouth can become swollen which makes it difficult to swallow
  • Drooling: Not being able to keep your mouth hydrated makes it work overtime to keep enough saliva which may result in drooling
  • Lung infection: It may also be an indication of peritonsillar abscess.

2. Strep Throat

Symptoms of this swollen tonsil on one side typically develop within five days of exposure. When it’s due to strep throat, you may also experience:

  • Sore throat: It is the primary symptom of strep throat
  • Redness in the throat: Inflammation may cause redness in the throat with white patches
  • Loss of appetite: When your throat hurts you will often lose your appetite
  • Fever: It is another symptom of strep throat
  • Headache: You may have headaches due to oral conditions
  • Chills: Infections cause aches and chills
  • Swollen neck glands: Your neck glands may swell due to the infection

3. Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is more severe than the other causes. That said, it brings about quite a few more symptoms than the other conditions. These symptoms include:

  • A sore throat: You may start to notice a sore throat as your first symptom
  • Vomiting: Nausea or vomiting can be another symptom of tonsillitis
  • Earache: Swollen tonsil on one side and ear pain are interrelated
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills: Chills are common when infected with bacteria or viruses
  • Fever
  • Difficulty swallowing: Swollen tonsils can make swallowing difficult
  • Bad breath: Underlying oral infection can cause bad breath
  • Breathing problems: There may be trouble breathing because of a swollen and inflamed throat
  • Red tonsils with pale coating: If your tonsils are red and pale coated it might be an indication of the infection

How to Treat Swollen Tonsil on One Side?

In most cases, swollen tonsil on one side does need doctor’s consultation. Following are the home remedies for each cause of a swollen tonsil.

Home Remedies for Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is very contagious, and it’s best if it is taken care of quickly. Home remedies for tonsillitis include:

1. Salt Water

The best home remedy for tonsils is salt water. The warm water will help to kill the bacteria and soothe your throat and tonsils. It will also reduce the inflammation. Follow the steps given below to treat tonsils with salt water:

  • Mix one teaspoon of table salt in a cup of warm water
  • Gargle the mixture and spit it out
  • Repeat as often as possible for best results

2. Lemon

Lemons have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help fight infection and the inflammation of the tonsils. Lemon also has high levels of Vitamin C which will improve your body’s natural resistance to infections. Here’s how to use lemon for tonsillitis:

  • Mix juice of one lemon, one teaspoon of honey, and a pinch of salt in a glass of lukewarm water
  • Drink twice a day slowly for best results

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon possesses antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms. It also helps reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. Here’s how you can use cinnamon for tonsillitis:

  • Mix one teaspoon of cinnamon powder in a glass of warm water
  • Stir in two teaspoons of honey
  • Sip it slowly while it’s warm

Drink it two to three times in a day for best results.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities that can help to fight off tonsillitis infection. It may also contribute to relieving the painful and irritating symptoms.

  • Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of salt water or hot water
  • Gargle the mixture as many times a day as possible, especially before bed.

5. Slippery Elm

Slippery elm contains mucilage, which is a gel like substance that can relieve inflammation, soreness, and pain. It can help you heal and soothe the inflamed tissues if taken internally.

  • Add a teaspoon of the inner bark of slippery elms into two cups of boiling water
  • Let the mixture sit for five minutes
  • Drink this mixture while it is still warm
  • Drink two times a day for the best results.

Home Remedies for Strep Throat

  • Drink herbal tea that contains licorice to get instant relief
  • Drink plenty of fluids and ensure that you keep yourself hydrated throughout the day
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medicine may also help with the swelling and infection
  • Take adequate rest for a speedy recovery.

Treatments for Peritonsillar Abscess

Here are few home remedies that can help you recover from Peritonsillar Abscess.

  • Needle aspiration: Your doctor will put a needle into the abscess and withdraw the pus.
  • Incision drainage: The doctor makes a cut in abscess with a scalpel and drain out the pus.
  • Acute tonsillectomy: If the tonsils keep recurring and the drainage procedure unbearable, you can ask a surgeon to remove your tonsils.

Swollen Tonsil on One Side: When to See a Doctor?

Dealing with any pain is difficult. If the home remedies fail to provide the relief you should see a doctor to treat swollen tonsils on one side.

Here are few more signs which indicate that you should consult the doctor immediately:

  • You have a sore throat that is still persistent after 48 hours accompanied with swollen or tender glands, or a rash
  • No improvement after being on two days of strep antibiotic treatment
  • Fever that goes above 101 degrees or lasts for more than two days
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Cola colored urine for over a week. It could be a sign of a type of kidney inflammation
  • Breathlessness, fever, rash, or painful or swollen joints. It can happen even three weeks after strep, and it may be rheumatic fever

Remember, swollen tonsil on one side is contagious. So to prevent others from getting infected, you should opt for some home remedies or immediately seek medical advice.

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Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.