Say Aaaah! Guide to Your Kid’s Tonsils

Open up and say “aaaaah!” You know those large, pink masses on either side of the back of your throat that seem to come forward to greet you when you do that? Those are your tonsils. While they’re meant to help protect the body from infection, they can become infected themselves.

kids tonsills 300x199 Say Aaaah! Guide to Your Kids Tonsils Photo

The pediatrician will examine your child’s tonsils for inflammation and other signs of infection.

As discussed in a previous post, kids get sore throats pretty often. And in kids between the ages of five and 15, those sore throats are often due to an inflammation and infection of the tonsils, or tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is most commonly caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria.

Symptoms of acute tonsillitis include:

  • Enlarged and inflamed tonsils covered by pus
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Tender cervical lymph nodes (found in the neck)
  • Possible airway obstruction due to inflammation (resulting in mouth breathing, snoring, nocturnal breathing pauses, sleep apnea, lethargy or malaise)

If my mother’s description of how tonsillitis was treated when she was a child is to be trusted, then the first sign of red or inflamed tonsils got you wheeled immediately into the OR for tonsil removal, or tonsillectomy.

My mother has been known to exaggerate, but it is true that tonsillectomies were performed far more frequently in the past than they are today. Today’s guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology call for tonsillitis to first be treated with antibiotics, fluids, and pain medications. Tonsillectomy should only be considered if a child has five infections a year for two years, or three infections a year for the three years.

Performed today at a rate of a quarter to half a million each year, tonsillectomy surgery may also include the removal of the adenoids (a mass of lymphoid tissue located behind the nasal passages), and is considered a minor procedure requiring only seven to 10 days away from school. Rare complications associated with tonsillectomy include infection and bleeding.

Has your child undergone a tonsillectomy?