Deciding whether your child should have a tonsillectomy
While having your tonsils out was a right of passage for many children growing up the in 1970's, it is no longer as popularly advocated for children today. If your child has frequent or severe tonsillitis, a tonsillectomy may be recommended but the decision will still be left at the discretion of the parents in most cases.
Here are some tips for deciding whether or not the procedure is right for your child.
The case for a tonsillectomy
Children with recurrent tonsillitis often miss significant amounts of school, and don't get a chance to experience many of the fun parts of childhood due to illness, including play dates, sleepovers and school camps. Recurrent doses of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance infections, and other antibiotic side effects include diarrhea and digestive upsets. Many children with recurrent ENT infections such as tonsillitis have trouble sleeping due to the pressure on their throat while they sleep. In turn, this may lead to related eating or sleeping issues, which can cause issues with growth, concentration or behavioural control, due to the discomfort when breathing and swallowing.
If your child has recurrent ENT infections, it's also worth remembering that recovery from procedures such as tonsillectomy is often quicker and easier for young children compared to mature adults, so it can be a good idea to get the procedure done while the child is still young.
The case against a tonsillectomy
Many of the cough and cold viruses that lead to secondary ENT infections naturally subside as your child gets older and play among children becomes less close, with less sharing of drink bottles and mouthing of toys. It can be sensible to delay a tonsillectomy for a period of time to see if there is a natural reduction in infections as you child get's older.
As medical research has improved, there is a growing understanding of the role of the tonsils. While they used to be seen as a unnecessary organ, they are now understood to play a role in the immune system and help stop viruses and infections from reaching the lungs and organs. Given the proximity of the ENT canals to the ears, sinuses, and upper respiratory tract, removing the tonsils can simply shift an infection from one area to another. In some cases it can be the 'lesser of two evils' to have tonsillitis rather than lung infections.
Deciding on whether a tonsillectomy is a good idea for your child is an assessment that is best made with an ENT surgeon like Allan W Forrest, or any other ENT specialist who has access to your child's full medical history.