A sore and swollen throat from tonsillitis can make swallowing difficult. Hard, spicy, and acidic foods are just some of the foods you may want to avoid.

Tonsillitis can cause a sore throat and difficulty swallowing, so you may want to avoid certain foods and drinks that can aggravate these symptoms.

This article takes a look at what to avoid if you have tonsillitis, as well as foods and beverages that may be easier to eat and drink when you have a sore throat.

What is tonsillitis, and who typically gets it?

Tonsillitis is the inflammation or swelling of your tonsils. The condition is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Tonsillitis is most common in children, but teenagers and adults can also get it.

Symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • pain when swallowing
  • earache
  • fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C)
  • coughing
  • headache

Learn more about tonsillitis, including treatments, how long it lasts, and when to see a doctor.

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Tonsillitis typically lasts 3–4 days. You can help reduce your symptoms by:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • getting plenty of rest
  • taking anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain

You might also consider avoiding certain foods that can irritate or inflame your sore throat. Here are foods you should avoid with tonsillitis:

Hard and crunchy foods

Tonsillitis can cause dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Hard and crunchy foods such as chips, cereal, and crackers can be painful to swallow, as they may irritate your inflamed and swollen tonsils.

Spicy foods

Foods containing ingredients such as chili powder, pepper, and hot sauce can agitate tonsillitis, affecting your mouth and throat.

Consuming capsaicin, a common component of certain spices, can increase saliva production, causing more mucus to build up in your throat. This can make it more difficult to clear your throat and swallow food.

Acidic fruits

Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and limes) and tomatoes can irritate your tonsils, as their acidity can cause inflammation within the lining of your throat.

Drinks to avoid with tonsillitis

Certain beverages can irritate a sore and swollen throat. Consider avoiding these drinks if you have tonsillitis:

  • Citrus juices: Like citrus fruits, citrus juices have acidity that can worsen your tonsillitis.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can cause mild dehydration, increasing the number of times you urinate. Having fewer fluids in your body can leave your throat feeling dry and scratchy, irritating your tonsillitis.
  • Caffeinated drinks: Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, can dehydrate your body. A small 2017 study suggests that coffee has a mild diuretic effect, releasing excess fluids by causing frequent urination.

If you smoke, consider quitting, as smoking can make your throat red, dry, and irritated. Also, a 2016 study found that dysphagia was more common among smokers than among people who had quit smoking.

So, which foods and drinks are recommended for tonsillitis?

Soft foods are the best option. They are easy to swallow and safe to eat, and they can reduce inflammation and irritation in your throat. Warm beverages may also prevent or relieve pain in your tonsils.

Soft foods and drinks for tonsillitis include:

  • warm fluids such as herbal teas, soup, and warm water
  • oatmeal
  • plain yogurt
  • eggs
  • soft-cooked vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots
  • fruit or vegetable smoothies
  • milk
  • ice pops
  • warm pasta
  • gelatin desserts
  • broth
  • cream-based soups
  • scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
  • soft fruits such as bananas
  • non-acidic juices

Consuming these foods and drinks will help you stay full and hydrated without worsening your tonsillitis.

Typically, mild cases of tonsillitis do not need medical attention. In fact, tonsillitis symptoms tend to resolve within 3 or 4 days without treatment.

However, in some cases, if your symptoms are severe, you may need to consult a doctor. Tonsillitis symptoms that warrant medical treatment include:

  • a sore throat lasting longer than 2 days
  • weakness or fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • neck stiffness

Seek immediate medication attention if you’re experiencing these symptoms

  • excessive drooling
  • a fever higher than 103°F (39.5°C)
  • a lot of trouble swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • pus-filled bumps in the back of your throat
  • tender or swollen lymph glands in your neck
  • red rashes that are rough to the touch
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Untreated tonsillitis can lead to life threatening diseases. Rheumatic fever is a condition that can develop if strep throat with tonsillitis is left untreated. This rare complication can cause inflammation or swelling in the heart, joints, brain, and skin.

However, complications of tonsillitis are very rare, occurring in 1–10 of 1,000 people who seek medical care for a sore throat.

If you have tonsillitis, consuming hard, spicy, and acidic foods and drinks can further irritate and inflame your throat and tonsils. Soft foods and liquids such as warm teas, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal, can reduce pain and discomfort.

Tonsillitis doesn’t usually require medical attention, but if you or your child is experiencing symptoms such as a high fever, muscle weakness, and neck stiffness, schedule an appointment with a doctor.