Throat Infections

How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: February 25, 2021
How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for

Tonsils are the lumps of tissue which you can see part of at the back sides of your throat. If we have to tell you where the tonsils are, then you have never had tonsillitis. It is a painful and very uncomfortable inflammation of the tonsils caused by a variety of viral and bacterial infections. There is a certain irony in this as tonsils exist as the first line of defense against airborne pathogens and bacteria we ingest through the mouth. They produce antigens to counteract the infection, but as they are on the front line the tonsils can become infected. When they do, they become very tender and, due to their location, make eating and speaking difficult. Due to this pain and discomfort, it is no wonder you might we asking for how long tonsillitis is contagious and oneHOWTO is here to provide the answer.

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  1. Common symptoms
  2. Is it contagious?
  3. Factors that affect the duration of your contagiousness
  4. How to avoid contagion of tonsillitis

Common symptoms

When your tonsils are healthy, you probably won't even notice them. They will sit there doing their job happily and leave you alone. If your immune system has been weakened in any way, however, you will know it soon. What might start as something else such as strep throat or even the common cold can lead to your tonsils becoming infected.

If you are unsure what to look for in an infection, here are the most common symptoms of tonsillitis.

  • Mild to severe sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling on tonsils and possible lymph nodes appearing around your neck
  • Tonsils redness
  • Pus or white spots on the tonsils
  • Voice changes
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Restless sleep or tiredness
  • Earache or neckache
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever and nausea

There are some other symptoms also, but if you are experiencing these common ones, it should be pretty obvious. Swelling and white pus marks on the tonsils themselves are pretty definitive signs you have tonsillitis. If you want to know more, make sure you check out our extended article on the symptoms of tonsillitis.

How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for - Common symptoms

Is it contagious?

It may be a simple question, but it's actually a slightly complicated answer. This is because tonsillitis, the inflammation of your tonsils, isn't in itself contagious. However, the underlying cause of tonsillitis is a viral or bacterial infection and these infections may indeed be contagious. For instance, mononucleosis is a throat soreness causing virus which is contagious only for the first time. It is sometimes known as glandular fever or, simply, mono. This condition is also contagious if it is caused by bacteria, such as strep throat.

If this bacteria is passed onto another, via sneezes, kissing or similar contact, then the root cause of the tonsillitis is contagious. However, if your tonsillitis is caused by an immune deficiency due to an underlying chronic condition, then it may not be the case. Sinusitis or hay fever will not be

But, if your tonsillitis is caused by a chronic condition like hay fever or sinusitis, then it is not likely to be contagious. This is because a condition like hay fever is to do with your immune system more than a specific virus or bacteria.

How is tonsillitis spread?

When you have tonsillitis and are in close contact with another person, pathogens of tonsillitis may travel through air with just a single breath cough or sneeze. If the other person comes into contact with these pathogens, he or she may develop tonsillitis too, especially when in contact with your eyes, mouth or nose. This is the method of contagion for both viral and bacterial pathologies.

How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for - Is it contagious?

Factors that affect the duration of your contagiousness

How long tonsillitis is contagious depends on many factors:

  • The type of infection which you have: This is because different types of tonsillitis have different periods of infection. Some types may become contagious even before you have started experiencing any symptoms. If it is a virus which causes your tonsillitis, it can be contagious for a week or two. In these cases your tonsils will need to undergo antibiotic treatment.
  • Severity of your infection: The more severe your infection, the longer you will remain contagious. Severe infections may even need more antibiotic treatment than mild infections. If you have chronic tonsillitis, you may require surgery for their removal. However, if you are an adult, this will not be down lightly as there is more risk of complications later in life.
  • The time your antibiotics took to start working: This depends on how well you absorb the antibiotics for it to reach your tonsils. In general, tonsillitis will stop being infectious after 2 to 4 days of onset of the infection. You will notice via your overall health, the faster antibiotics act, the faster you will start feeling better.
  • Length of your antibiotic treatment course: This usually depends on the type and severity of your infection, as well as your individual response to the treatment. Mostly, an antibiotic course lasts for 5 to 7 days, but it may vary.

Make sure you know the adequate treatment for your tonsils by reading our article: how to cure tonsillitis, in order to get well as soon as possible.

How to avoid contagion of tonsillitis

If you want to avoid passing your tonsillitis to someone else or want to avoid catching it from someone who is already suffering from this disease, prevention is the key. This is why at oneHOWTO we advise your to follow these tips to avoid tonsillitis contagion:

  • If you live or work with someone who currently has tonsillitis, make sure you wash your hands frequently.
  • You should not share any silverware, cups, glasses or any other utensils with a person who has tonsillitis if you want to avoid contagion.
  • Kissing your boyfriend/girlfriend can also pass tonsillitis on. Therefore, if you have a weak immune system, avoid kisses.
  • Wash your toothbrush thoroughly after brushing your teeth, as pathogens can stick to the brush and make the disease persist.
  • Don't think a person with tonsillitis needs to be isolated or in quarantine. Once you have started taking antibiotics, it's OK to return to your usual routine 24 hours to 2 days later provided you feel better. Make sure you know what to eat and drink when you have tonsillitis in order to speed up your recovery.
How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for - How to avoid contagion of tonsillitis

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.


  • Start taking your antibiotics as soon as possible. Non treated tonsillitis can be contagious for as long as 2 weeks if not treated.
  • Make sure you don't stop taking antibiotics until you have finished the whole treatment cycle you have been prescribed by your doctor or your risk further infection.
  • Do not smoke while suffering from antibiotics as it will only make your condition worse as it will trigger further irritation.
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How Long Is Tonsillitis Contagious for