Health A to Z
Quinsy, also known as a peritonsillar abscess, is a rare and potentially serious complication of tonsillitis.
The abscess (a collection of pus) forms between one of your tonsils and the wall of your throat. This can happen when a bacterial infection spreads from an infected tonsil to the surrounding area.
Quinsy can occur at any age, but most commonly affects teenagers and young adults. It's possible to get it more than once.
Symptoms of quinsy can include:
Some people with quinsy may also have a high temperature (fever), although this sometimes passes before the abscess develops.
You should see your GP if you or your child have symptoms of quinsy.
Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine your throat and tonsils. These are the two small glands found at the back of your throat, behind your tongue.
If quinsy is suspected, you will be referred immediately to a hospital ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further tests and treatment.
It's important that quinsy is diagnosed and treated quickly to prevent the infection from spreading and to avoid serious problems caused by severe swelling, such as breathing difficulties.
People with quinsy usually need to be treated in hospital. Depending on how severe the infection is, you may need to stay in hospital for a few days and rest at home for a week or two afterwards.
You will be given antibiotics to clear the infection. These will usually be given directly into a vein (intravenously) at first, but you may switch to a short course of tablets or capsules once you are well enough leave hospital.
Occasionally, corticosteroid medication may also be used to help reduce the swelling in your throat.
In many cases, antibiotics alone are not effective, and it may be necessary to drain the pus from the abscess. This can be done by:
You will often remain awake during a needle aspiration or incision and drainage procedure, but you will be given either a sedative to help you relax and/or a local anaesthetic to numb the area being treated.
Tonsillectomies and some incision and drainage procedures are carried out under general anaesthetic. This means you will be asleep and won't feel any pain while these procedures are carried out.
One of the best ways to prevent quinsy is to reduce your risk of developing tonsillitis.
You can help do this by avoiding close contact with people who have viral or bacterial infections that cause tonsillitis, regularly washing your hands with soap and warm water, and not sharing glasses or utensils with people who are ill.
Smoking may increase your risk of quinsy, so stopping smoking may reduce your chances of getting it.
Using antibiotics to treat viral tonsillitis doesn't significantly reduce the risk of quinsy and isn't routinely recommended.