Many parents can be faced with recurring tonsil problems in a child. The child can become frequently ill, get fever, complain of sore or painful throat, difficulty swallowing and even earache, and in cases mild hearing loss.
This can well pose the question whether the removal of the tonsils once and for all; by way of a tonsillectomy is a good idea. In particular some children seem to have recurrent problems because of inflammation, infection or swelling of the tonsils.
What are tonsils and what do they do?
Certain tissues at the back of the throat protect us against inhaled foreign substances and help us fight infection. The tonsils (and other parts of the throat) are what the doctor wants to look at when they tell a child to open the mouth, stick out the tongue and say ‘Aaaa’.
Using a flashlight, you can also look down the throat of your child to see if the tonsils (located at the sides of the back of the throat) are reddened, inflamed, swollen or if they have a whitish coating on them.
How to tell if a child has a problem with tonsils
Some kids can have recurrent throat infections. Sore throat, throat pain, difficulty swallowing can all be symptoms of inflamed or infected tonsils. They may complain of ear ache or even less acute hearing in some cases. They may sleep with their mouth open and may even snore. In some cases there could be difficulty in chewing as well.
When there are recurrent problems with inflamed or infected tonsils, a child may fall sick frequently, missing school and so on. This may present the quandary – should the child undergo a tonsillectomy to remove the tonsils?
When is a tonsillectomy indicated?
When the infection is very severe and frequent and means a repeated interruption of a child’s normal activities, parents may be advised to consider surgery. Also in some cases the infection may be severe enough to spread and may cause complications such as pharyngitis, kidney and other problems due to difficult eating and so on. In such severe cases, removal or tonsils may be indicated.
However if symptoms are not that problematic, it is best not to have surgery. This is not only because surgery should be avoided per se, but also because tonsils are an important part of the body’s immune system and should be conserved as far as possible.
Most children outgrow this problem in a few years anyway, so consider if the problem is severe enough for surgery.