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Home > Prescriptions and Medications > Sore Throat > Quinsy - a serious complication of tonsillitis
Quinsy - a serious complication of tonsillitis
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What is Quinsy?

  • Quinsy occurs when an abscess forms at the top of one of the tonsils
  • An abscess is a collection (or bag) of pus
  • The tonsils are the 2 lumps you can see in your throat when you open your mouth wide
    • They sit in the bottom corners at the back (behind your tongue)
    • They are either side of the dangly “uvula” which hangs from the top

What are the symptoms of Quinsy?

  • Worsening sore throat
  • Feeling unwell
  • Significant difficulty swallowing
  • Smelly breath
  • Usually a fever (high temperature)
  • Usually the glands are up in your neck
  • Sometimes earache
  • Sometimes difficulty opening the mouth wide
  • Sometimes it causes you to speak with a strange voice, sounding like you have a golf ball in your mouth

What does Quinsy look like?

  • The tonsil that has the abscess will look large, often pushing the uvula (which normally dangles in the middle) off to one side
  • The uvula itself may look swollen
  • Your mouth may look “yucky” or unclean


Who gets Quinsy?

  • Quinsy starts during tonsillitis
  • It’s commoner in people who get tonsillitis recurrently
  • It happens to between 1 and 4 in 10,000 people per year
  • Tonsillitis is when your tonsils become swollen, inflamed and painful
    • This is usually caused by bacteria or viruses
  • People with tonsillitis can therefore progress to developing quinsy
  • Anybody can develop quinsy. Certain people are more likely to get it:
    • People on immune-suppressing medications
    • People with illnesses affecting the  immune system (eg. HIV)
    • People with diabetes
    • Smokers
    • People with poor dental health (bad teeth/gums) – (12)

What causes Quinsy?

  • Bacteria responsible for tonsillitis (usually Streptococcus or Haemophilus species) form an abscess on a tonsil
  • It’s not known why this happens

What is the treatment for Quinsy?

  • You need to go to hospital urgently, as it’s important that quinsy is treated before it affects your breathing
  • Antibiotics given intravenously (in a drip, usually into your arm)
  • You’ll usually be given intravenous fluids as well (for dehydration)
  • Sometimes steroids are given – these have been shown to help
  • The abscess will usually be drained by a doctor, using a scalpel (sharp surgical knife) or a needle
    • Usually the area is numbed first using a spray
    • Some people have a general anaesthetic for this (surgery after being put to sleep)

Can I die of Quinsy?

  • Yes, though this extremely rare if you are treated in hospital
  • Outcomes are usually excellent if the right treatments are given

What’s the prognosis for Quinsy?

  • Outcomes are generally very good
  • You usually need to have your tonsils surgically removed (tonsillectomy) a few weeks after you’ve recovered to prevent it from happening again

Article Resources

1 Geißler K et al Functional characterization of T-cells from palatine tonsils in patients with chronic tonsillitis

2 Wikstén J at al Renewal of peritonsillar abscess: Impact of the bacterial species of the infection and clinical features of the patient-A prospective comparative aetiological study

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