Kids get tonsils out only under certain conditions

Tonsils are the small pieces of tissue at the back of the mouth and side of the throat. Adenoids are found up behind the soft tissue at the back of the mouth and behind the nose. They are not visible when you open your mouth wide. These pieces of tissue produce antibodies and white blood cells to fight infection. In some children, bacteria and viruses may cause tonsillitis (throat infection) with symptoms such as fever and swollen lymph nodes. The adenoids may also become infected and enlarged, making it difficult to breathe and swallow, and also contributing to ear infections.

In the past, it was common for children to get their tonsils and/or adenoids removed for a variety of conditions. With advances in modern medicine, however, these procedures are now only recommended when certain circumstances exist. The main reasons for removal include:

  • Breathing problems, including sleep apnea
  • Frequent throat infections
  • Recurrent strep throat
  • Swallowing issues
  • Tumor in throat or nasal passage

Preparing child getting tonsils or adenoids out

A pediatric tonsillectomy or pediatric adenoidectomy is a surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. Your child will be asleep and will not feel anything during the surgery. Children who undergo this type of surgery generally go home the same day as the surgery unless there are complications or the child is younger than three years old.

After the surgery, it will take 10 days to two weeks to fully recover. Your child may experience pain at first, particularly in the ears, neck and throat. Your child’s medical team will advise you on what types of pain relievers are safe and effective for your child. It’s important that children drink plenty of fluids during recovery so be sure to encourage juices and water, as well as ice cream, pudding, Jell-O and milkshakes—anything that’s cool and soothing on the throat. Your child will soon be able to start eating soft foods such as oatmeal, applesauce, and macaroni and cheese.

During this recovery time, children are advised to stay home from school and avoid sports and vigorous activity until eating and drinking well, and feeling more energized and free of pain. While you may see some short-term weight loss due to the limited liquid diet at first, your child should return to a healthy weight soon after resuming regular eating.

With all surgery there is some risk, such as bleeding, infection, dehydration, and permanent change in voice. It’s time to call the doctor if you see anything that concerns you, particularly:

  • Severe bleeding from the mouth
  • Signs of dehydration such as extreme tiredness and refusal to drink fluids
  • Fever of 102°F or more

Most children recover quite well and see improvement in their original symptoms. After recovery, you will have another visit with your child’s doctor to discuss the results of the surgery and determine any next steps, if needed.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.