White Spots on Tonsils: 7 Common Causes and Effective Treatments

White Spots on Tonsils: 7 Common Causes and Effective Treatments
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White spots on your tonsils are usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Some of the most common reasons for the white spots appearing on your tonsils are strep throat, tonsillitis, yeast infection, or mononucleosis. Along with the whitish patches at the back of your throat, you will probably have other symptoms that can help identify the cause of the infection.

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Some of these symptoms are:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands on your neck
  • White spots at the back of throat
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • A dry throat
  • Unpleasant taste in mouth

While it can be fairly straightforward to treat the infection and get rid of the white spots on your tonsils, you should always have a doctor check it. If left untreated, the infection can get worse and spread. Sometimes, white spots on your throat can be a sign of a more serious condition.

In this article, you will find out what causes white spots on your tonsils. You will also find out about the best remedies to treat the tonsil infection.

White Spots on Tonsils: Causes and the Best Home Remedies

It’s important to know the reason for of any kind of white spot or patch on your tonsils. The best course of treatment depends on treating the underlying cause of the infection or inflammation.

For example, Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that viral infections are the most common cause of sore throats and are treated differently than bacterial or yeast infections.1

1. Strep throat

A bacterial infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria is a common reason for white spots on your tonsils. This can also cause a severe sore throat and be even more painful than tonsillitis.

According to journal Canadian Family Physician, strep throats account for around 30% of all throat infections in children between the ages of 5 and 15.2

Doctors from WebMD say that the symptoms of strep throat are yellow or white spots on the throat and tonsils, a high fever, and a bright red throat. The strep throat infection usually comes on suddenly and doesn’t have other cold or flu symptoms. You may experience difficulty in swallowing.3

If you have swollen tonsils, a runny nose, or a low fever under 101°F (38.3°C) then is most likely that you have a viral infection.

When treating a strep throat infection, it’s important to remember that natural remedies are best used only if the infection is mild to moderate. A serious Streptococcus infection can lead to complications like kidney disease or rheumatic fever if not treated properly.4

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To get rid of white spots on your tonsils caused by strep throat, there are many effective home remedies that are great for treating mild infections.

Cayenne pepper for mild strep throat infection

You can use cayenne pepper as a medicine to help get rid of a strep throat. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper that is useful for treating throat infections is capsaicin. This is the compound that gives cayenne pepper and chilies their kick.

The journal Frontiers in Microbiology found that capsaicin is a strong antimicrobial agent that inhibits the spread of Streptococcus bacterial infections.5 Other studies have found that capsaicin helps to calm nerve endings to reduce pain and inflammation.6

To make a home remedy to treat a sore throat and its symptoms using cayenne pepper, mix 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with half a cup of coconut oil. Because capsaicin is strong and might hurt your throat, and since it is well absorbed by your skin, apply the capsaicin paste to the skin on your throat and on the swollen lymph nodes on your neck.

You can also use essential oils to treat bacterial throat infections or probiotics to boost your immune system and help to prevent bacterial infections. These natural remedies are discussed in my article on the best natural remedies for strep throat infections.

2. Tonsillitis

Another common reason for white spots appearing on your tonsils is tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is caused when the tonsils become infected and inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the main symptoms of tonsillitis are a yellow or white coating on inflamed tonsils, sore throat, white patches on throat, difficulty swallowing, enlarged lymph nodes, and a headache.

If a bacterial infection has caused a serious case of tonsillitis, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics. In this case, please read my article on what to do to restore healthy intestinal flora if you are on antibiotics.

There are simple home remedies to relieve the discomfort caused by tonsillitis and get rid of the white spots on tonsils.

Salt water gargle for tonsillitis

Gargling with salt water is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to treat inflamed tonsils. This is what you should do to help cure tonsillitis:

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  • Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm water.
  • Gargle several times a day to get rid of the infection and the white spots on tonsils.

Echinacea tea for tonsillitis

Use Echinacea tea to boost your immune system and help treat tonsillitis and get rid of the white spots on throat. A study into the medicinal properties of Echinacea found that extracts from the plant help to reduce inflammation and reduce the symptoms of bacterial and viral infections in the upper respiratory tract.7

To make a delicious Echinacea tea for tonsillitis, this is what you should do:

  • Put a teaspoon of dried Echinacea and a 1-inch piece of chopped ginger in hot water, cover, and let it steep for several minutes.
  • Allow the tea remedy to cool and add some lemon and honey to boost its medicinal properties.
  • Drink 2-3 times a day to help cure your tonsillitis faster and get rid of its symptoms.

To find out more about why you should use Echinacea when you are ill, please read my article on how to use Echinacea tea to boost your health.

Echinacea tea and a salt water gargle are just two of the many ways to cure tonsillitis naturally.

3. Tonsilloliths (Tonsil Stones)

Tonsilloliths cause whitish stone-like bumps to appear on your tonsils. These look like small white stones that are embedded into your tonsils which is why they are also called tonsil stones. Unless you have an infection along with the tonsil stones, the white spots on your tonsils won’t cause a fever.

According to dentist, Dr. Michael Friedman on WebMD, the white spots on your tonsils at the back of your throat are formed when bacteria, mucus, and dead cells become trapped. When the trapped bacteria calcify, white bumps form on the tonsils.8

Dr. Friedman explains that the other common symptoms of tonsilloliths apart from white spots on the back of throat are bad breath caused by bacteria and a sore throat. You may also have difficulty swallowing and suffer from ear pain.

Many tonsil stones don’t require any special treatment. Some people use picks or swabs to gently remove the white stones from their tonsils.

A salt water gargle can also help to kill off bacteria at the back of your throat and relieve the discomfort that tonsil stones can cause.

If you have tonsil stones and want to know what else you can do to prevent them forming or get rid of them completely, please read my article on natural ways to treat tonsilloliths.

4. Oral thrush

A candida fungal infection can cause white patches to form on your tonsils as well as affecting your tongue and back of your mouth. The yeast infection that causes oral thrush is caused when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria.

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A common cause of oral thrush is taking a course of antibiotics. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say that antibiotics can disrupt the delicate balance of microorganisms in your body and cause yeast to overgrow and affect your mouth.9 This results on creamy white lesions on your tonsils, tongue, and roof of your mouth.

There are many practical ways to help restore balance to your digestive system and clear the symptoms of oral thrush.

Coconut oil for oral thrush

Virgin coconut oil is naturally antifungal and can help to get rid of the white stuff from your tonsils and back of throat.

The American Society for Microbiology studied the antimicrobial effect of coconut oil on candida. They found that when coconut oil is added to the diet, it can help reduce the colonization of Candida albicans strain.10

To treat oral thrush with coconut oil and get rid of the white patches on throat, this is what you should do:

  • Mix 1-2 drops of clove oil or cinnamon oil with a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil.
  • Swish the mixture around your mouth for a few minutes, taking care not to swallow any.
  • Spit the mixture out, rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth.

Repeat the process once a day until you no longer have white patches on your tonsils or other parts of your mouth.

Another natural way to cure oral thrush and treat its symptoms is to consume fermented foods. These act as probiotics to help to boost the good bacteria in your gut and improve digestive, cardiovascular and immune health.

Or you can try apple cider vinegar to treat yeast infections and get rid of white oral thrush patches from your tonsils.

5. Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is a viral infection that affects the back of your mouth and causes white spots on your tonsils. Mononucleosis (or sometimes just called mono) is transmitted by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) through saliva and is common among teens. It can be difficult to diagnose and treat mono because the symptoms are similar to strep throat.

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Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that the other symptoms of mono are swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, a sore throat, fatigue, loss of appetite, and pain under your left ribs (caused by an enlarged spleen).

Dr. Thompson says that plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids can help your body recover from the virus. If you have abdominal pain, you should avoid lifting heavy items because this could damage your spleen.11

In addition to getting plenty of rest, you can use a salt water gargle to help reduce the discomfort of a sore throat. You could also try using one of the natural pain killers that I’ve mentioned on this website.

Other Causes of White Spots on Tonsils

There are some less common causes of white spots on your tonsils.

6. Leukoplakia

On rare occasions, the white spots on your tonsils could be due to leukoplakia. Because leukoplakia can be caused by irritants in the mouth, it commonly affects people who smoke or chew tobacco or have poorly fitting dentures. Although most cases of leukoplakia are mild, Dr. Michael Friedman on WebMD says that leukoplakia has been linked with oral cancer.12

A study published in the journal Oral Oncology found that squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can develop in areas of the mouth affected by leukoplakia.13 According to dermatologist Dr. Delwyn Dyall-Smith, SCC usually forms around the tonsils, the underside of the tongue, floor of the mouth, and the soft palate.14

The Epstein-Barr virus can also cause oral hairy leukoplakia in persons with weakened immune systems. This can cause white spots on throat, mouth, tongue, and other areas of the mouth.15  

7. Tonsillar cancer

Cancer of the tonsils is a type of oral cancer (commonly known as squamous cell carcinoma) which can cause white patches on the tonsils. According to the medical center Cedars-Sinai, tonsillar cancer can cause sores at the back of the throat that don’t heal.16  

However, a white patch or sore on your tonsil isn’t the only symptom of tonsillar cancer. Doctors at Cedars-Sinai say that you may have mouth pain, blood in the saliva, severe ear pain, lump in the neck, or a persistent sore throat.

White Spots on Tonsils – When to See a Doctor

Many cases of sore throats with their related symptoms can be easily treated by home remedies. However, doctors from the Cleveland Clinic recommend seeing a doctor if have any of these symptoms along with white spots on your tonsils:

  • A severe sore throat that comes on suddenly.
  • It is painful to swallow.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You notice pus on your tonsils.

Read these related articles:
1. The Best Natural Remedies for Strep Throat
2. The Best Home Remedies for Tonsillitis
3. Tonsil Stones: Top Natural Ways for Removal and Prevention
4. Bumps in Mouth: Causes, Symptoms and Natural Treatments

Article Sources:
  1. WebMD. Is your sore throat a cold, strep throat, or tonsillitis?
  2. Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jul; 57(7): 791–794.
  3. WebMD. Strep throat symptoms.
  4. WebMD. Strep throat – what happens.
  5. Front Microbiol. 2015 Nov 13;6:1281
  6. Cur Anaest Crit Care. Volume 19 , Issue 5 , 338 – 343
  7. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jul;17(8-9):563-8.
  8. WebMD. Tonsil stones.
  9. MayoClinic. Oral thrush.
  10. MSphere. Reduce gastrointestinal colonization by Candida albicans
  11. WebMD. Mononucleosis – home treatment.
  12. WebMD. Oral health and leukoplakia.
  13. Oral Oncol. 2009 Apr-May;45(4-5):317-23.
  14. DermNetNZ. What is carcinoma in situ of oral cavity?
  15. HopkinsMedicine. Oral hairy leukoplakia.
  16. Cedars-Sinai. Tonsil cancer.
  17. HealthClevelandClinic. How to tell if your sore throat needs a doctor’s visit.
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