My glandular fever story - 'severe throat pain and tonsillitis'

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I've spent so much time googling Glandular Fever (GF) recently I thought it might help to add my story! First of all I’m 25, female and have suffered from throat infections / tonsillitis in the past so am no stranger to muddling through the salt water / aspirin gargling / manuka honey and lemon / spit bucket scenarios. This past month however was ridiculous because the ‘severe sore throat’ wouldn’t go away!

Here’s where I’ll start. I had a colonoscopy on Sep11th where I had a large polyp removed from an awkward place, then on the 18th had a barium x-ray – the two of which left my body in a bit of a mess and experienced quite a bit of soreness and general feeling of unwell-ness. On Sep 22nd my throat felt a little sore and I checked my tonsils – yes, infected with a little pus. I’d also been experiencing some pain under my left rib cage – which I felt was swollen and a little sore. I put this down to the colonoscopy.

Between Monday 24th – 287h Sep I became increasingly more tired with a terrible headache around my right, puffy eye socket. Daytime was worse, I felt sensitive to the light. My throat remained slightly swollen with some pus but not enough to think I needed treatment for tonsillitis. Over Saturday 27th and Sunday 29th September I developed fever, exhaustion, sweating, shaking (especially at night) and on Monday 1st October went to the doctors who prescribed pencillin for high temperature and infected tonsils. When I explained the tenderness of the pain I thought was in my bowel – he prescribed me anti-spasmodic tablets and said it was likely to be due to the colonoscopy poking round the bends of the bowel. These didn’t work.

A week later, 8th October I’d finished my course of pencillin and all symptoms had gotten worse day by day. Tonsils had only really been swollen on the one side (my right) – but that one alone covered 2/3 of the back of my mouth. But the other side had cottoned onto the idea and was catching up now. This terrified me. I was prescribed amoxiclav instead of pencillin and he took a swab to check what kind of infection I actually had. I also insisted on having blood tests carried out for GF. The doctor was sceptical but all my internet research of prolonged, agonising tonsillitis + bowel pain (in the spleen area!) led to GF.

Back to doctors for results 10th October. Throat swab came back as ‘flora normal’. You really should have seen how minging my mouth was – to be described as normal! I cried. By this point I had quite clearly what they call ‘hot potato mouth’. Blood tests were positive - which was a brief hallelujah followed by a - what do you mean there's no treatement? I was prescribed soluble ibuprofen 400mg and some paracetemol and told to stop taking amoxiclav. The worst part of this was that you can't take the painkillers round the clock - during the periods of no ibuprofen the swelling was unbearable.

By Friday night I could barely move. I hadn’t managed to eat for days, could barely swallow. Earache had taken over the entire right side of my face. My glands were so swollen and sore it hurt to support my own head. I couldn’t breathe properly and hadn’t slept for three days because everytime I did I would completely block my airways and wake up in terror. The pus had completely covered my tonsils so they were all white and some of the back of my throat. The dongly thing couldn’t actually swing by itself so I constantly gagged. Sleep anoea I think they call it?

I rang NHS direct – through my husband as I couldn’t sound words properly with the hot potato mouth – who rang me back – who said they’d get my local doctor to come round – local receptionist rang to say that they’d ring again when the doctor was near and on his way – then a doctor rang to say that actually I’d have to go to the clinic but there weren’t any appointments nearby so I’d have to travel 20 miles to a clinic I’d never heard of and couldn’t get to easily. He also said that the clinic wouldn’t really be able to do anything other than tell me whether I needed to go to A&E. I first rang at 6pm. It took me to 11pm to get an answer from them – by which point A&E would be full of drunks.

Saturday 13th October went to A&E at 5am hoping it’d be quiet but arrived between shifts and was forgotten about while they tried to get an ENT doc to come and see me. These four hours were the absolute worst of my life. I couldn’t hold my own head up yet the glands at the back of my head meant that I also couldn’t lean on anything either. I was eventually admitted to a private room (infectious has it perks) at 9am and given IV saline as I was so dehydrated, two steroid injections (over two days), codeine, diplofenic, ibuprofen, paracetemol and on a penicillin IV drip for three days because my GF developed into tonsillitis and a possible abscess.

As soon as I had the steroid injection it was amazing. It was wonderful. The best best best thing ever. I really, really put off going to the hospital because I hate being a fuss or a bother. But I was at the point where I was asking my husband to smother me with a pillow because GF made me want to kill myself. Except I was too weak to do it myself and couldn’t work out a way to do it. I sure wasn’t going to be swallowing a lot of pills…

I got out of hospital late on the 15th thankful to be alive – but missing the 24 hour pain assistance. Monday and Tuesday at home were sketchy. I couldn’t sleep for more than two hours and I was literally watching the clock waiting for it to be time to take more painkillers. I was taking 3x ibuprofen, 8x paracetemol and 8x codeine a day and crying out for more. But by Wednesday I felt a little bit better - Wednesday evening felt great and on Thursday I should have taken photos by the hour to see how quickly my tonsils improved!

It’s now the 20th October and my tonsils have finally got rid of their pus but I cannot stress how awful this whole experience was. Yes I’m exhausted and the codeine and three weeks of antibiotics has wreaked havoc with my system but I really don’t mind. I can swallow my own saliva. I can breathe air. My mouth doesn't taste like rotting flesh. I really truly think that if I hadn’t gone to A&E I’d have died of exhaustion and pain. I think the biggest difficulty was researching on the internet and reading about GF and how it causes a ‘sore throat’ or at best ‘severe throat pain’. I’ve been ill quite a lot – as I’m a weakling with a stupid immune system – and I’ve had tonsillitis really bad before – but this! This was like hell. Calling it a sore throat is just plain awful and how do you measure your own pain against other people's? I didn't want to waste anyone's time and it was such a RELIEF to be told at the hospital how sorry they felt for me because of how awful my throat looked.

To recap; I’m only blathering on in the hope I help someone else who is in as bad a state as I was – and for them to know that the hospital will help and not turn you away. Otherwise I’d have continued typing on google phrases like these forever; can glandular fever really be this bad? / am I going to die from glandular fever / will I ever feel better with glandular fever / glandular fever why is this happening to me / glandular fever completely covered white pus tonsils / glandular fever unilateral earache / glandular fever if it’s all on one side could I have quinsy / should I know if I have a quinsy? / the secret horrors of glandular fever they didn’t want to tell you.

Time to delete my search history now : )

4 likes, 8 replies

8 Replies

  • Posted

    Thank you so much for sharing! Just found this! I've been suffering the same thing for years!! Happy to see that I am not alone. My sister got her tonsils removed because she went thru the same thing. It's painful and I cry every time. Doctors tell me the same thing each time, Advil, sleep, water, gargle etc... Always wishing for some ear drops or heavy pain killers! They have no idea how painful it is. Soaked towels from drooling and crying. I use to tell my cats to kill me because I couldn't handle it.

    I just wish doctors would prescribe the right stuff before heading to the emergency room!

  • Posted

    To anyone who gets glandular fever please try to see the ears nose and throat specialist at your local hospital . I had this and it got so bad I had to go a&e where the doctor was telling me there is nothing they can give me but I knew there was a little white pill because my cousin had this just before me....they are steroids and they make you better within 24 hours ... Like magic pills there called dexamethasone . Doctors won't give you them only the specialist in the ears nose and throat department.
  • Posted

    Hello my name is john mulligan and I can relate to your story, as long as I can remember I had suffered from tonsilitis, glanduar and scarlet fever. Over the years I would got tonsilitis like 10 times a yr and constantly get glanduar fever. I was like yourself always runned down, feeling tired all of the time, sore throats and not fit to play football. I eventually got my tonsils out on the 29 of feb 2016. I so happy I got them out and for the first time in a long time I felt healthy but a week later my throat started to bleed and I had to spend a week in hospital getting myself right again. After all of this after about 4 weeks rest I went back to playing football and this was when everything went wrong. I was still tired, not feeling myself and most of the time vomiting, at first I thought it was the lack of fitnese but this went on for 3 months so eventually I decided to stop playing until I get better. For example I would start playing the match and 5 minutes in my body was wrecked I could barely stand up I felt so tired and sick. Also even though I got my tonsils out and every doctor was telling me this was the cause of my sore throat, my throat is still very sore most of the time and if I talk for long peroids of time I find it very hard to talk cause my throat, mouth become dry and my voice starts to break. I constanlty get stinging pains aswell in my throat. So I went to the doctors and got my bloods done and this was 5 weeks ago now. I got back positive that I had glandur fever in my blood system and have various viruses! Everyone was telling it was all in my head that I was pretending to be sick! Especially my GP! I must have went back into him about 20 times with the same symptoms. He advised me to go talk to a concellor cause he thought I was depressed and all along I was sick, he told me this cause he didnt have any other answer for me. So now I have to see a specialist, my GP says its my best hope of getting a cure for myself ,but I dont know how long this could take to get an appointment, im just very frustrated that I have been sick for years and still not one doctor can help me. Im the same as most people on this chat, im frustrated and im only 19 and I should be flying fit playing football. I just wanted to share this cause yous are going through kind of the same thing. If anyone has any advice or just wants to share anything give me a buzz thank you
  • Posted

    Thanks to you I went to the hospital the day I read this. I have the exact same thing you did. They gave me 2 steroids and an iv bag. My tonsils are a mess and basically closed up but no tonsilitis (even though it us completely white on both sides) So, no antibiotics. I ate so much food before my pain came back. Now im starving again. ( before I went to the hospital, I hadnt eaten anything in 4 days.

    Ive noticed, for my pain and inflamation, advil works better than tylenol. I was given this intense mouth rinse (not the green stuff) that works really well. Its called magic mouth wash, and takes 24 hours to make. So well see how that works. I just hope my throat starts getting better. Its been two straight weeks of torture and im tired of sounding like there are sucks in my mouth. I dont like taking additional medicine, but I may get something stronger from the doctors because this pain keeps me up all day and all night.

  • Posted

    Thank you so much.... on reading this i have now had symptoms of Glandular fever for 3wks... the last 4 days i cant believe how my throat feels... today is the first day i have given up flighting through the pain of eating... have been to the doctors 3 times and dont feel I can go anymore...!! Having another blood test tomorrow and fingers crossed doctors well phone me by the weekend... thank you for taking your time to write this and making me feel more normal and that I can get through it x
  • Posted

    Sounds like you have been through a load of pain. 

    I have been suffering from I don’t know what for nearly two weeks. I have seen doctors and been in and out of hospital for “tonsillitis”. The doctor has now put my on my 4th course of antibiotics and absolutely nothing has changed. 

    It all started with dreadfully body aches so I thought I had the flu. The doctor said I had the flu and but me on a antibiotics. After that course, I returned to the doctor because it had gotten about 5 times worse than before. 

    I hadn’t complained of a sore throat but mainly body aches. When I got to the doctor that morning he looked in my mouth and told me I have tonsillitis and put me on a different course of antibiotics. They did nothing. I went back to the doc after 2 days and this time I had puss on my left tonsil. He then sent me to hospital where I saw a specialist who told me it’s the worst he has seen this year. This doctor but me on a drip with antibiotics. Still did nothing for me !!! ( along all of this I have been taking pain meds) 

    Hospital did nothing to help me and I was still in antagonising pain. I left the hospital and the next day I ended up at my GP again. He put me on a drip of antibiotics and a few vitamins and pain relief stuff. It helped me for the rest of the day but today I feel awful still. 

    Ok so I have been doing research and I am almost convinced that I have a virus and it must be glandular fever. My tonsils are massive, my glands behind me hears and I’m my neck are huge, my upper abdomen is killing me and I am achy all over my body. I feel like they have not diagnosed me with the right thing. Would you say this is GF or tonsillitis? 

  • Posted

    You don’t understand how comforting reading your story is. I’m awake now at 5am dying to take my medications at 6am. 

    Last Thursday I went to my regular doctor with a giant lymph node  protruding out of the right side of my neck. I hadn’t felt any symptoms of the GF/Tonsillitis so I was told to get some rest and drink warm fluids. However, over the weekend it started to worsen (ie. pain when I swallowed) so come Monday I decided to stop ignoring these pains and head back to the same doctor. I left with a prescription for antibiotics which I was meant to take over the course of ten days for tonsillitis - something I had never experienced before. I was asking a lot of my friends what it felt like and describing to them the agony of what I was going through - Monday night through to Wednesday morning I was choking on my own saliva because the pain of swallowing was too much and was constantly in tears because of how helpless I was feeling against these pains + the earaches on top of them. None of my friends could relate and really pushed for me to go to the hospital.

    Come Wednesday morning the only sentence I could manage to sound out was “it hurts. Take me to the ER”. Once I got there, they told me I wasn’t over exaggerating and that only my right side had the tonsillitis. Not long after that I went through 2 IV drips as well as receiving steroid injections and a few other shots that I can’t remember, while waiting for my blood tests to get back as well. By this stage the head doctor was so intrigued at how swollen my lymph nodes were and told me I sounded like I had a big potato in my mouth, which is why my Mom was having to try and talk for me the entire time because no one could understand what I was saying. By the end of it the results tested positive for GF and although last night with all the pain killers was the biggest break I’ve caught since last week, I’m in bed with an extremely dry mouth and feeling like I’m swallowing nails once more.

    I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy and after reading your experience is given me the slightest bit of hope. Soon this’ll be over and I can finally proceed with my normal life. Overall, I’m just thankful that I’m now currently on a uni break and have just over a month to recover fully!

    • Posted

      Hi how are you feeling now? How is your throat and lymph nodes? My thoughts are with you. Feel better soon

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