Undergoing tonsil removal is almost a rite of passage for American kids. In fact, pediatric tonsillectomy is the second most common surgery for children. But how can you tell your child has tonsil issues and not simply a sore throat?
At Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, we know that when your child doesn’t feel well, it can ruin your day. And if your child’s symptoms persist, it can make you feel helpless, especially if you’re not sure of the difference between a simple nuisance and a more serious issue.
A throat infection is no fun, but it’s nothing that a little TLC, rest and over-the-counter medications won’t help. On the other hand, if your child has tonsillitis (or symptoms of tonsillitis), then a more serious, more effective treatment might be in order, such as a tonsillectomy.
Tonsils are small, round glands located in the back of your mouth on both sides of your throat. They are part of your body’s immune system and produce antibodies that help combat infections, yet they are not essential to leading a healthy, normal life. When these glands get infected, it results in tonsillitis. Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, headache, painful swallowing and visible redness of the tonsils.
A tonsillectomy is tonsil removal surgery. Although it is a short procedure (30-60 minutes), it does require your child go under general anesthesia for the entire time, so the decision to have your child undergo this surgery should be made only after taking all aspects of the situation into consideration.
A child’s tonsillectomy is normally performed to address tonsillitis, problems swallowing and other serious, persistent throat issues. At Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, AL, we assess your child, your child’s medical history and his or her current overall well-being to determine the best course of action.
It’s during this assessment that we look for 3 signs that tell us it’s time for a tonsillectomy.
Sign #1 – Chronic Infections
Although the purpose of your tonsils is to help fight infections, they can also become infected and inflamed, making it difficult to swallow and often causing a fever, which can either be low-grade or high-grade. The main causes of this infection are viruses and bacteria.
“Chronic” infection is described as a persistent or recurring infection under one of the following conditions:
- Five or more throat infections in one year
- Four or more throat infections per year for two straight years
- Three or more throat infections per year for three years in a row
Other related signs of a tonsil infection include white spots on the tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and difficulty while eating and chewing. For serious cases, a tonsillectomy is often the only option for treatment or cure.
Sign #2 – Enlarged Tonsils
Enlarged tonsils can be problematic in several ways. One, they can cause trouble swallowing, which can affect your child’s appetite and overall mood. Two, they can cause your child to snore (or snore more or more loudly than usual). Three, they can cause sleep apnea (brief intermittent periods at night when your child stops breathing), which can impact many of your child’s daily activities. In fact, tonsillitis is a common cause of sleep apnea in kids – and sleep apnea has become one of the most common reasons to undergo pediatric tonsillectomy.
In children, a tonsillectomy is the best way to remove the blockage causing sleep apnea, the direct effect of which is restless sleep that leaves your child moody and tired. This can affect his or her daily activities or class performance and leave them hyperactive, inattentive, cranky and tired. Unfortunately, however, many parents and doctors misdiagnose this in children as ADHD.
So, if your child seems to be crankier, moodier or more frustrated than usual, it might be something other than ADHD. Check to see if your child snores loudly or sleeps restlessly; if so, then enlarged tonsils may be affecting your child in the form of sleep apnea.
Sign #3 – Abnormal Growths
Another sign pediatric tonsillectomy should be considered is the sight of abnormal growths on the tonsils. These are thought to be due to the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), which can lead to cancer in the throat or mouth, particularly at the base of the tongue and tonsils. A child tonsillectomy is a great way to rule out cancer, which is suspected (and surgery recommended) if any of the following symptoms are found:
- A mass of abnormal growths on the tonsils
- Chronic pain
- Trouble swallowing
No biopsy is done to diagnose cancer – simply being concerned about the threat of cancer is all that is necessary for tonsil removal, especially considering the fact removal does not adversely affect your child’s health in any way. Learn more about tonsillectomies at medlineplus.gov.
Pediatric ENT Associates is the Alabama Authority on Pediatric Tonsillectomy
Regardless of how simple or short, any type of surgery can be a scary thing for you and your child. However, if your son or daughter is suffering from sleep apnea, a sore throat or difficulty swallowing, contact Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham by completing our online contact form or calling (205) 831-0101 today. Our board-certified, compassionate physicians are committed to helping your child overcome different ear, nose and throat issues. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so your child can get back to doing what he or she does best – being a kid!
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