How is tonsillitis diagnosed?
To diagnosis tonsillitis, your doctor will:
- Examine your throat for redness, swelling or white spots on the tonsils
- Ask about other symptoms you’ve had, such as a fever, cough, runny nose, rash or stomachache
- Look in your ears and your nose for other signs of infection
- Feel the sides of your neck to see if the lymph nodes are swollen and tender
After confirming a tonsillitis diagnosis, your doctor will need to determine whether the infection results from a virus or bacteria (strep throat).
How is strep throat diagnosed?
Your doctor may order a throat culture — also known as a strep test — to determine if you have strep throat. A throat culture is a simple test that checks for the presence of specific bacteria in your throat. During a throat culture:
- Your doctor will swipe the back of your throat with a long cotton swab to gather saliva and cells. The test may feel uncomfortable, but it is not painful.
- While you wait, your doctor will test the cells to check for bacteria. This test is called a “rapid strep test.” The results are ready in about 10-15 minutes.
- If the results are positive and the test does detect bacteria, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat you for strep throat.
- If the results are negative and the rapid strep test does not detect bacteria, your doctor may send the sample away to a lab for more thorough testing. This longer lab test usually takes 2-3 days to get results.
- If the lab test results come back negative, you’ll know the tonsillitis is viral, not bacterial.
How do I know if I have tonsillitis?
If you have a sore throat, swollen tonsils and pain with swallowing, you may have tonsillitis. You should visit your doctor to determine whether bacteria or a virus is causing the tonsillitis. The treatment varies based on the type of infection.