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What should you eat if you have tonsillitis?

What should you eat if you have tonsillitis?

You've got tonsillitis and your throat feels like sandpaper, you feel nauseous and it is difficult to swallow, which is making eating - and wanting to eat - challenging. When you're not feeling well, however, it's important to keep your strength up. So what should you eat if you've got tonsillitis?

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What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils and its' common in children, although adults and teenagers can get it too. It is normally caused by a virus, which spreads by being in physical contact with others, or by sneezing and coughing. Sometimes, tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection such as Strep A.

The main symptoms in children and adults are a sore throat, problems swallowing, a high temperature of 38C or above, a cough, headaches, feeling sick, earache and feeling tired. Tonsillitis usually gets better on its own after a few days and can be treated with paracetamol, ibuprofen, drinking plenty of fluids and rest. For tonsillitis caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

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What to eat when you have tonsillitis?

Foods to eat with tonsillitis should be soft and easy to swallow, this can be helpful when you have a sore throat because they may be less likely to cause irritation. Soft foods include mashed potato, cooked pasta, stews, soups, cooked vegetables, smoothies, scrambled eggs, soft fruits like bananas and noodle dishes.

Try soups

Soups, such as chicken and vegetable or leek and potato, can be a good way to fill up and eat a healthy, veg-packed meal.

Be careful with acidic foods

Acidic foods may also inflame a sore throat. For example, oranges, lemons, grapefruits and tomatoes, including juices. However, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated when you have tonsillitis.

Be wary of dairy

Some research suggests eating dairy may increase the production of mucus, which can lead to clearing your throat or coughing - which could irritate an already sore throat. A 2019 study found that a dairy-free diet may reduce mucus. Researchers randomly assigned 108 people into 'dairy eaters' and non-dairy eaters’'groups and found self-reported levels of congestion were lower in the dairy-free group1.

Try cool or warm foods

Some people find cool or cold foods soothe an irritated throat, whereas others prefer warm meals. Cold foods such as ice lollies or fridge-cold smoothies are a good option.

Foods to avoid with tonsillitis

Harder, crunchier foods may be more likely to irritate a sore throat, so it may be better to avoid these. Such foods may include: Toast, crackers, crisps and crunchy or uncooked fruits and vegetables.

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How to soothe a sore throat

There are several things you can do to soothe a sore throat when you have tonsillitis:

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

  • Eat soft foods.

  • Adults can try gargling with warm, salty water, but children should not try this.

  • Rest and try to sleep.

  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and lower a high temperature if you are feeling unwell with the fever.

  • Visit your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if your symptoms aren’t easing after a few days.

  • You can buy lozenges and throat sprays at pharmacies that may help to soothe a sore throat.

Further reading

1. Frosh et al: Effect of a dairy diet on nasopharyngeal mucus secretion.

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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