Most sore throats are viral and only last a few days. They are usually similar symptoms to those associated with the “common cold” like a cough, runny nose and lethargy. Most require no treatment apart from simple analgesia such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
A bacterial infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis) is associated with more severe symptoms that last longer, usually a week or more. When you look at the tonsils they are red, inflamed and often covered in pus. The sufferer is usually unable to eat and drink and has a high fever. Symptoms of a common cold are also absent, especially the cough. Glands in the neck are usually tender and palpable as well.
If tonsillitis occurs frequently then removing them can be beneficial, especially if it is interfering with school and work attendance. The tonsils are removed under a general anaesthetic and most patients go home the same day.
It is painful afterwards for a week or so, rather like having tonsillitis and there is a small risk of bleeding (1 to 2% of patients).