As a parent, you may have heard of tonsils and the possibility of your child needing their tonsils removed. However, you may not know exactly what tonsils are, what they do, or how to know if your child needs their tonsils removed. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about tonsils and whether your child should have them removed.
What are tonsils?
Tonsils are small masses of tissue located at the back of the throat on either side of the uvula, which is the small fleshy projection that hangs down from the middle of the soft palate. There are two types of tonsils: palatine tonsils and adenoids.
The palatine tonsils are the ones that most people refer to when they talk about tonsils. They are located on either side of the throat and are visible when you open your mouth wide. The adenoids are located higher up in the throat, behind the nose and are not visible without special tools.
What do tonsils do?
Tonsils are part of the body’s immune system, and their job is to help fight off infections that enter the body through the mouth and nose. When a person breathes in, air passes over the tonsils, which helps trap bacteria and viruses. The tonsils then produce white blood cells to fight off the infection.
Do all children need their tonsils removed?
Not all children need their tonsils removed. In fact, most children do not need their tonsils removed. Tonsillectomies are only recommended in certain situations, such as:
- Recurrent tonsillitis: If a child has multiple episodes of tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils) within a year, and antibiotics are not effective, a doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing while they are asleep. If a child has sleep apnea and their tonsils are obstructing their airway, a tonsillectomy may be recommended.
- Abscess: If a child has an abscess on their tonsil, which is a pocket of pus that forms when an infection is not treated, a tonsillectomy may be necessary.
- Difficulty swallowing: If a child has difficulty swallowing due to enlarged tonsils, a tonsillectomy may be recommended.
- Cancer: In rare cases, a child may have tonsil cancer, and a tonsillectomy may be necessary.
How is a tonsillectomy performed?
The surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia and during the surgery, the tonsils are cut away from the surrounding tissue using a coblator.
What are the risks of a tonsillectomy?
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with a tonsillectomy. The most common risks include bleeding and infection. Other risks include:
- Dehydration: After a tonsillectomy, it may be difficult for a child to drink fluids, which can lead to dehydration.
- Reaction to anesthesia: Some children may have a reaction to the anesthesia used during the surgery.
- Changes in voice: In rare cases, a child’s voice may change after a tonsillectomy.
- Pain: After a tonsillectomy, a child may experience pain in their throat and ears for up to two weeks.
- Bleeding: In rare cases, bleeding may occur after a tonsillectomy, which may require a second surgery.