What Causes White Bumps on Your Tonsils?

Have you ever glanced in the mirror and noticed some odd-looking white bumps on the back of your throat? If so, you might be seeing white bumps on your tonsils. Tonsils are those lumps of fleshy tissue situated at the back of your throat, acting as an early line of defense against germs that enter your body. Sometimes, the tonsils themselves can become troubled, leading to white spots or bumps.

Common Causes of White Bumps on Tonsils

Several conditions can result in the appearance of white bumps on your tonsils. Here are some of the most frequently occurring culprits:

  • Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis refers to an inflammation of the tonsils, usually caused by a viral infection, though bacteria can sometimes be the cause. White bumps or spots filled with pus on the tonsils are a telltale sign of tonsillitis. Along with the white bumps, you might experience a sore throat, painful swallowing, fever, and swollen neck glands.
  • Strep Throat: One specific type of bacterial tonsillitis is strep throat, which is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. It’s highly contagious and requires antibiotic treatment. Strep throat often includes red, swollen tonsils with white patches or streaks in addition to throat pain, fever, and other symptoms.
  • Tonsil Stones: Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are formations of calcified debris that accumulate in the crevices of your tonsils. These hardened deposits of food, mucus, and bacteria can appear as white or yellowish bumps. While sometimes small and undetectable, larger tonsil stones may cause bad breath, throat discomfort, and a constant sensation of something stuck in the back of your throat.
  • Oral Thrush: A yeast infection in your mouth, called oral thrush, can lead to white, raised bumps on the tonsils, tongue, and inside cheeks. Caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus, this condition primarily affects those with weakened immune systems.
  • Mononucleosis (“Mono”): A viral infection commonly termed “mono” is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and can give rise to white spots on the tonsils. Mono is particularly known for extreme fatigue, sore throat, swollen glands, and fever.

Less Common Causes of White Bumps on Tonsils

In addition to the causes mentioned above, several less common reasons may also account for white bumps on tonsils:

  • Certain oral or sexually transmitted infections (STIs): These STIs, including gonorrhea and syphilis, can sometimes impact throat health and trigger tonsil-related symptoms.
  • Tumors or cysts: While not frequent, it’s possible for growths and cysts to manifest within the tonsils and may occasionally give the appearance of white bumps.

When to See a Doctor

In many cases, white bumps on your tonsils can be managed at home. However, there are instances when consulting a doctor is essential. Seek medical advice if you observe the following:

  • White bumps persisting longer than a couple of weeks
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • High fever (over 101°F or 38.3°C)
  • Significant pain
  • Severely swollen glands

Treatments of White Bumps on Tonsils

Treatments for white bumps on your tonsils vary according to the root cause:

  • For tonsillitis and strep throat: Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections. Over-the-counter pain relievers and throat lozenges can aid in discomfort relief. Viral tonsillitis often resolves on its own with enough rest and fluids.
  • For tonsil stones: Warm salt water gargles can sometimes dislodge smaller tonsil stones. In stubborn cases, your doctor may use specific tools to remove them.
  • For oral thrush: Antifungal medications are the go-to treatment when dealing with oral thrush. Good oral hygiene is also vital to prevent its recurrence.
  • For mononucleosis: Mono does not typically require specific medications. Your doctor will often focus on rest, fluids, and managing symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat and White Bumps

Besides medical treatment, certain at-home remedies can significantly enhance your comfort while your body addresses the underlying cause of the white bumps on your tonsils:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink ample fluids, especially warm or cool liquids like water, clear broths, and herbal teas, to avoid dehydration, soothe the throat, and encourage healing.
  • Salt water gargle: Gargling with warm salt water multiple times a day offers potential benefits in dislodging tonsil stones and reducing inflammation. The simple recipe is one teaspoon of salt mixed into a cup of warm water.
  • Suck on lozenges: Sucking on throat lozenges or cough drops can soothe and temporarily relieve throat discomfort.
  • Soft foods: Opt for easy-to-swallow, soft foods like soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, or ice cream while your throat is sore. Avoid hard, rough food that could irritate it further.
  • Humidifier: Utilize a humidifier to add moisture to the air, preventing dryness and further soreness in the throat.
  • Rest and recuperation: Prioritize rest. Your body needs adequate sleep to fight infection and encourage recovery.

Prevention of White Bumps on Tonsils

Here are some helpful tips to lower the possibility of developing white bumps on your tonsils:

  • Practice good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and consider using a mouthwash to reduce bacteria buildup in your mouth.
  • Wash hands often: Germs can transfer easily from surfaces to your hands. Therefore, wash your hands frequently, especially before meals and after using the restroom.
  • Don’t share food or drinks: Avoid sharing food, drinks, or utensils with anyone, especially those who appear ill.
  • Manage allergies and acid reflux: Allergies and acid reflux can potentially cause throat irritation, raising the risk of tonsillitis. Treating those conditions might assist in prevention.


1. Are white bumps on the tonsils serious?

Most cases are not serious and clear up on their own or with minor treatment. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, medical evaluation is important to determine the underlying cause and discuss appropriate treatment.

2. Are white bumps on tonsils contagious?

Whether or not the white bumps are contagious depends on the underlying cause. For example, strep throat and mononucleosis are highly contagious, while tonsil stones generally are not.

3. Can I remove the white bumps on my tonsils?

You might be able to gently dislodge small tonsil stones with a cotton swab. However, avoid trying to remove them if they are too deep, or you feel pain. Never try to remove what you believe to be white patches or any bump on your tonsils with forceful pressure, as this risks increasing irritation and potential bleeding.


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