When is the Right Time to Have Your Tonsils Out?
Enlarged or swollen tonsils can be difficult to deal with because they can make it hard to breathe, swallow, or speak. Deciding when the time is right to have your tonsils out depends on the seriousness of your symptoms and your doctor’s recommendations after an examination.
What Are Swollen Tonsils?
Tonsils are two masses of tissue on either side of your throat. When your tonsils become overly large or swollen, they can contribute to poor sleep, difficulty in talking and other issues. Tonsillitis is the medical term for inflammation of the tonsils that can cause swelling.
What Causes Swollen Tonsils?
Tonsils are the first defenders against germs that are designed to filter out any bacteria or viruses that enter through your mouth. Sometimes, the tonsils become overwhelmed by germs and infection sets in, resulting in swollen tonsils.
What Are the Risk Factors for Swollen Tonsils?
Several factors that can contribute to swollen tonsils include:
Age: Children are at particular risk for swollen tonsils because their immune systems aren't fully developed. As children grow, the tonsils shrink in size, making swollen tonsils more unlikely as they age. Among very young children, swollen tonsils are typically caused by viruses, while in older children and adults, swollen tonsils are usually caused by bacterial infections.
Environment: Environmental risk factors for swollen tonsils include poorly ventilated and overcrowded settings where the spread of infection occurs more easily. Also, second-hand smoke is an environmental risk factor for enlarged tonsils due to the irritation it can create.
Compromised immune system: People who have diminished resistance due to compromised immunity have greater chances of acquiring infections. This vulnerability makes them more susceptible to throat infections and swollen tonsils. People with HIV or those who take prolonged courses of steroid medications are at risk of developing compromised immune systems.
When Should I See a Doctor About Swollen Tonsils?
It’s recommended to see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor when you have swollen tonsils because an ENT physician has specialized training and experience regarding throat issues.
See your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- A sore throat lasting more than two days
- Fever above 103°F
- Extreme illness, fatigue, or weakness
- Difficulties with breathing or swallowing
- Additional symptoms that require a doctor visit to check on enlarged tonsils include:
- Very red tonsils
- White or yellow spots or coating on the tonsils
- Bad breath
- Swollen neck glands
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Recurring ear infections
- Voice changes
- A persistent runny nose
How Are Swollen Tonsils Treated?
Swollen tonsils typically point to an underlying cause, so they're treated based on the cause of the swelling. If it's a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed. If it's a virus, there are no medications for it. If swollen tonsils are severe enough, a tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) may be the best option.
A tonsillectomy is done on an outpatient basis, so you get to go home the same day. In some cases, an overnight stay may be needed. The surgeon uses a scalpel or other specialized surgical tool to remove tonsil tissues and stop bleeding.
If you're suffering from swollen tonsils, schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor to get on the road to feeling better. Board certified physicians with New York ENT have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating a wide variety of neck and throat conditions, including swollen tonsils. Fill out the form on this page or call our office at (212) 873-6168 to schedule an appointment today.