While it may seem to be a rite of passage for childhood, removing tonsils is actually a major surgery that should only be done when warranted. It is a decision you will make in partnership with your ENT based on a number of factors.
What Do Tonsils Do?
Tonsils are small glands on either side of the pharynx. They are a part of the lymphatic system, which helps our immune system fight off infection. Tonsils, like lymph nodes, swell and get sore when helping the body fight infections like sinusitis and bronchitis. The tonsils themselves can become infected; this is called tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can cause a very painful sore throat. While warm saltwater rinses can help, often, antibiotics are necessary. Sometimes, the tonsil must be drained of the infection if it becomes abscessed. Repeated incidents of tonsillitis can be concerning.
Making the Decision to Remove Tonsils
Making the decision to have a tonsillectomy is often based on how many times the patient has had tonsillitis. Weighing the pros and cons of a single surgery to three or four rounds of antibiotics and sore throats each year can often make the decision easier. In addition, if the tonsils are contributing to other health issues like sleep apnea, it might be time to consider removing your tonsils.
Are There Risks to Living without Tonsils?
While the tonsils are considered a part of the immune system, a number of studies have determined that removing them does not compromise a person’s immunity or ability to fight infection. In fact, the opposite may be true: some pediatric patients who have recurring strep throat stop getting strep after the tonsillectomy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Tonsillectomy?
Recovery is usually relatively rapid, especially in children. A few days of a liquid diet with plenty of ice cream as incentive is usually all it takes to get them through it. It can be more difficult for adults, who usually require about a week to ten days to fully recover.
If you believe you or your child may need to have your tonsils removed, contact New York ENT.