Could These Be a Contagious Bacterial Infection?

I just read all 36 postings--thank you!
It's interesting to hear everyone's ways of coping with this "dirty little secret."  :-)
I have had these since I was a young girl (12?), or maybe I just noticed them then. Fortunately (?), my mom did too, so I didn't have to freak out wondering what was wrong with me like some of the poor people posting here. 

Being a curious mind by nature and a research scientist by training, I have done a lot of trials of various things, and here's what I've learned after 20 years of dealing with these: 

1) they are worse when I am fighting an infection.  I always assumed that my tonsils were just part of my immune system gearing up to fight the infection, and actually wondered if this was a clump of expended white blood cells being expelled after a job well-done.  Imagine that! !! There's really nothing wrong with you!  Could it be that everyone has this, but they don't notice --that we only notice because we have unusually large pockets?  My roommate in grad school was a med student, and she said the tonsils are one of the first lines of defense from infection, and these are just clumps of white blood cells around a foreign body or bacteria.  For a well-reasoned medical opinion, check out:

But I have sometimes wondered whether this could be a flaring up of a minor low-grade chronic infection we carry all the time, but only shows symptoms when we're immunocompromised from fighting some other bug?  Somebody should really do some research on responses to various antibiotics gently rinsed into the tonsillar crypts.

2) if I poke about, even gently with even well-cleaned BARE fingers, invariably I end up with a sore throat/inflammed tonsils (many bacteria, especially strep harbor under the fingernails).  The tonsils seem very easy to inflame. So be careful back there!

I always use a piece of tissue, folded into a flat point, to cover my finger--allows one to easily and gently pull back the tissue to the sides of the tonsils, which opens a large cavity.  (That everyone seems to have, by the way--I pestered my poor spouse who doesn't have this problem to check!)  Then pushing the back of the tongue forward and up (like you're trying to scrape something off the roof of your mouth) will generally dislodge any that are built up in there to the point that they are causing trouble (bad breath or discomfort).

3) If I disturb my tonsils to the point of even slight bleeding, I end up with a sore throat/  inflammed tonsil  (this includes a waterpik, the original type even on the lowest setting, it's too rough and tears tissue).  The infant nasal clearing syringe bulb idea somebody posted sounds gentler, hadn't ever tried that, but here's something even better:  **Saline solution for contact lenses.** It's sterile, salt is a natural antibacterial, and it can be gently squirted right into this deep pocket to rinse away any accumulations.  Voila-- good breath for a month!

Since my mom had it and my 8 year old son now has it, and my best friend's daughter now has it, I have to wonder if this is somehow a contagious infection of some sort.  Is this passing from one person to another living in close proximity?  Or just a genetic tendency for large pockets?

The dairy and sugar thing is intriguing, I never noticed a correlation there myself, but never really looked at it carefully.  I don't think I would ever take extreme measures to get rid of these (like a tonsillectomy).  Especially given the experience of the person who posted here to say they grew back and had the same problems.  Just be very, very gentle and sterile, they don't seem to get any worse--I only have to resort to clearing the accumulations 1x / month or less.

Good luck!   Hope this helps!
MacGyver MacGyver
41-45, F
1 Response Apr 18, 2007

Just, wow. I can't believe I went my entire life with these disgusting things in my throat! I just turned 43 and the first time I notice one was around the age of 20 after I had been crying for a while, I blew my nose and one came out of my mouth. I thought I must have mold spores growing in my sinuses! I always had terrible allergies and sinus infections, so this is the only thing I could think of. Once or twice again over the next 10 years I might have seen 1 or 2 small ones and still was bewildered. My breath wasn't terrible but I definitely noticed the "poo fairy" had visited overnight and always rushed for my toothbrush first thing in the morning! I also always had mints or gum in my purse. If I didn't eat anything, I would get a stale or metal taste in my mouth. Then, at around age 31 a big one came out one day and I was like what IS this? It smelled hideous and looked like some kind of growth, like a mold or mushroom, which made me again think sinus growth or something, I tried looking these up but nothing matched. I wrapped that one in plastic and put it in my freezer to take to my next dr. apt. My doctor said he had no idea what it was but he couldn't test it now because I had frozen it and that killed any mold or bacteria in it so testing would be pointless (duh, my bad) It is surprising to me that so many doctors do not know about this condition....I can only surmise that because we no longer remove children's tonsils routinely (which was the normal thing only a generation ago) there has been a huge rise in cases where there had been almost none previously due to so many children having tonsillectomies. Approximately a month ago, I again coughed up one of these stink balls....and I was determined to figure it out this time! I went straight to Google and typed in "small yellow foul smelling nodules coming from the throat" and Voila! The answer to my mystery has been solved! Tonsil Stones. Gross, disgusting, smelly, icky tonsil stones. I realized my breath has been bothering me a lot....particularly in the morning...or again if I haven't eaten for a while.....and when I blew my nose I had this awful poo smell in my I knew I must have more of those gross suckers in there. I looked up how to get rid of them for good. And I went to town with my tools and for the love of GAWD what came out I just can't bring myself to explain. Suffice to say it was disgusting and horrifying and I cannot believe that was in my freakin throat. No wonder my morning breath was akin to a dragons ***. I gargled with salt water several times that day. The next day, my tonsils were so much smaller and not swollen anymore! And they have huge holes and crypts that look like deep sea caverns! I had no idea my tonsils were in such bad shape! And for the first time I woke up with no visit from the poo fairy! I have fresh breath and a clean taste in my mouth, amazing!!! It does kind of **** me off that my doctor didn't know about this, because I could have been cured of this long ago, by at least a decade! There must be so many other people who have no idea they have these and are just suffering with the effects. My oldest daughter is lucky, her tonsils have been removed. But my 8 year old has hers still...I will be vigilant about checking hers to be sure she never has to deal with this problem! And I will stay on top of the salt water gargling and visual checking to make sure I don't ever get them again! BTW, I also ordered a tonsil stone deluxe kit from TheraBreath (Dr. Katz) who's mouthwash, toothpaste and breath mints I have used and they are AWESOME. The best on the market. I trust his tonsil stone kit will be good too!