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  • Emily in Paris actress Ashley Park is recovering from septic shock after a severe case of tonsillitis.
  • Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils that can develop severe complications, like sepsis.
  • Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention.

Ashley Park, one of the stars of Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” and “Beef,” revealed last week that she was recuperating from “critical septic shock,” after a bout of tonsillitis during a New Year vacation.

Septic shock is the most severe form of sepsis, which is when the body goes into overdrive to fight an infection, resulting in widespread inflammation. Sepsis is a serious condition that requires medical attention and can result in death. Although the actress is on the mend now, the illness resulted in a week in intensive care and numerous emergency room visits.

“What started as tonsillitis spiraled into critical septic shock, which infected and affected several of my organs. I am grateful that my health has improved despite what we had initially been told,” she wrote on Instagram.

How does a common infection like tonsillitis result in something so serious and how do you recognize the symptoms?

Tonsillitis is a general term to describe an infection of the tonsils, which are lymph nodes at the back of the mouth and top of the throat. Tonsils are part of the body’s immune system and help to keep you from getting sick by filtering out bacteria.

“Tonsils can sometimes become infected or inflamed, leading to a condition known as tonsillitis. Infected tonsils typically appear enlarged, red and can have white/yellow patches or coating. Such inflammation can result from viral or bacterial infections with viral infections accounting for up to 70% of cases,” Dr. James Clark, an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told Healthline.

While tonsillitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria, the cause can make a big difference in the outcome.

“Tonsillitis, if it’s caused by a virus, will usually clear on its own. If it’s caused by bacteria even then it can clear on its own, but you really should get antibiotics for it,” said Dr. Ryan Ribeira, Medical Director of the Adult Emergency Department at Stanford Health.

Strep throat is one form of bacterial tonsillitis, caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. The severity of strep throat can vary from person to person, however strep has the potential to become life-threatening in some cases.

“While most cases of tonsillitis resolve on their own or with treatment, in rare cases complications can arise. Complications from tonsillitis typically arise from untreated (or incomplete treated bacterial infections) leading to the infection spreading beyond the tonsils and into the bloodstream,” said Clark.

If left untreated tonsillitis can develop into a more serious infection, as in the case of Ashley Park.

As the infection spreads beyond the tonsils and throat, the body may cause excessive inflammation as a response to try and control it. When the infection enters the blood, the condition is then known as sepsis.

“What sepsis means essentially is that you have an infection that is so severe that your body’s normal mechanisms for managing it are starting to break down. Once you do have sepsis, you can start to have failure of one or all of your organ systems,” said Ribeira.

Once sepsis has set in, it can culminate in septic shock. Symptoms of septic shock include a large drop in blood pressure, abnormal organ function, and confusion. Septic shock is a very serious diagnosis: it is fatal in 30-50% of hospital patients.

The best thing to do is to treat a common infection like tonsillitis before it can progress to this serious, life-threatening stage.

The good news, as the experts interviewed by Healthline point out, is that most cases of tonsillitis will clear on their own. However, in some cases antibiotics will be necessary.

Signs of serious tonsillitis complications include the following:

  • Fever
  • Severe difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty breathing

“If you have a severe sore throat and a fever that has lasted longer than 24-49 hours. In cases with severe difficulty swallowing, being unable to swallow your saliva, or having trouble breathing you should seek immediate medical care,” said Clark.

“I certainly wouldn’t suggest you have to go to the emergency department every time you have a sore throat. But, it’s important to take presumed strep throat pretty seriously. Usually, the things you’re looking for with strep are a fever and a sore throat and that’s it,” said Ribeira.

Actress Ashley Park said she is recovering after developing sepsis following tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis is a common infection of the tonsils at the back of the mouth caused by a virus or bacteria. Sometimes antibiotics are needed to treat tonsillitis.

The infection will usually clear on its own, but can progress to a more serious condition known as sepsis and then septic shock.

Sepsis is an extreme reaction by the body’s immune system to an infection resulting in widespread inflammation and organ dysfunction. Symptoms of septic shock include low blood pressure, confusion, and organ dysfunction.

Signs that tonsillitis is turning into a more serious infection include: difficulty breathing, confusion, and fever.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention.