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Quinsy: is it Contagious?

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Quinsy describes a pocket of infection just next to one of your two tonsils at the back of your throat. Also called a peritonsillar abscess, it’s caused by bacteria and occurs as a rare complication of tonsillitis. It is mainly seen in young people from teenagers up to mid twenty's. It can be serious and requires hospitalisation to treat.

Symptoms to look out for are a sudden worsening sore throat that can be one-sided, which may cause difficulty swallowing or opening your mouth. This can lead to drooling, bad breath, pain in the ear on the side of the quinsy, and you may speak at a very low volume or with minimum movement of the mouth. A high fever usually accompanies this and it is likely you’ll feel unwell.

Is quinsy contagious

The bacteria causing quinsy (and bacterial tonsillitis) is possible to be spread to others. It usually spreads through saliva, or respiratory droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

You should seek urgent medical attention if your symptoms fit with a quinsy. This can be via an urgent visit with your doctor, by calling 111 or by contacting your local emergency department.

Am I fit for work?

You are not fit for work if you have a quinsy.

When should I see my doctor?

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, take your temperature and some basic health measures such as your heart rate and blood pressure. They will look at the back of your throat to see if you have the characteristics of quinsy. If a quinsy is diagnosed, you will be managed in hospital where you will be given antibiotics by the vein. They will also give you pain relief, fluids by the vein, and they may give you steroids to help with any throat swelling. It is likely you will need the abscess draining in a small surgical procedure while you are awake.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023