While we miss everyone during social distancing, we are enjoying these fall months and the weather they brought. While the COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable, we are confident that our office will be able to provide the same level of care and service that our patients are accustomed to. We have been monitoring the situation closely and have been establishing additional sanitation procedures as needed to ensure the safety of our staff and patients.
Whether you still have your tonsils or not, you might be familiar with how popular tonsillectomies were in the early-to-mid part of the last century. Almost all kids got their tonsils out in those days, and references to the ubiquitous operation appeared in many sitcoms and other popular media.
So when your doctor suggests that your child might need a tonsillectomy or an adenoidectomy, you wonder if it’s really necessary. Unlike in the 1950s and 1960s, however, these days otolaryngologists don’t recommend tonsillectomy just because your child has had a few sore throats. Our experts at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, Alabama, only advise surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids after careful examination and consideration of your child’s medical history and current symptoms.
What are tonsils and adenoids, anyway?
Tonsils are a pair of small lymph nodes that rest near the back of your throat. As part of the lymph system, their job is to remove toxins and bacteria from your body to decrease the risk of infection. However, when the tonsils themselves become infected — a condition known as tonsillitis — they can cause recurrent sore throats. Tonsillitis, if left untreated, can lead to strep throat, which in turn may develop into scarlet fever.
The adenoids are a pair of glands that rest in the back of your throat, just underneath the nose. The adenoids help your body fight infections by producing white blood cells. If your child has frequent sore throats, the adenoids enlarge, which can make it hard for your child to breathe — especially at night when they’re sleeping.
Why does an ENT specialist recommend tonsillectomies?
If your child develops tonsillitis, that means their tonsils aren’t working well anymore. Symptoms of tonsillitis include:
- Reddened tonsils
- Sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
Tonsilitis can also cause your child’s tonsils to enlarge, which may make it difficult to swallow and may cause them to snore at night. While just a single episode of tonsillitis was once cause for a tonsillectomy, doctors now look for other signs as well before deciding to have your child undergo surgery according to pubmed.gov. At Pediatric ENT Associates, we recommend tonsillectomy if your child has:
- Chronic throat infections (five or more throat infections in one year; four or more throat infections per year for two straight years, or three or more throat infections per year for three years in a row)
- Enlarged tonsils that interfere with breathing or contribute to sleep apnea (a condition in which your child snores and stops breathing during sleep)
- Abnormal growths on the tonsils, which may be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and could be a precursor to cancer
The American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP) also recommends tonsillectomy if your child has:
- Allergies to or intolerance of multiple antibiotics
- PFAPA (i.e., periodic fever, aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis, and adenitis)
- History of at least one peritonsillar abscess (pus-filled pocket near the tonsils)
Why doctors recommend adenoidectomy
When your child’s adenoids grow too large, they can cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If your child has OSA, they literally stop breathing multiple times during the night while sleeping. The apneas, or pauses in breathing, rob your child’s organs of essential functions and may cause them to feel unrested, irritable, and tired during the day.
If your child’s adenoids are enlarged and our Pediatric ENT Associates expert determines they have OSA, an adenoidectomy can help them get the rest they need.
Sometimes a child’s tonsils and adenoids are inflamed or enlarged at the same time. In these instances, your Pediatric ENT Associates surgeon might recommend removing both the tonsils and the adenoids in one procedure. This can sometimes be the best option because the procedures are similar and these two nonvital organs are located closely together.
Simple procedures that improve your child’s health
Our Birmingham doctors perform tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies through your child’s open mouth — no incisions required. Before the operation, your child breathes a calming anesthetic through a face mask, so they stay comfortable and asleep during the operation. Both tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are very safe and low-risk procedures. Additional info can be found in this study.
After their operation, your child should be able to sleep more soundly. They’ll also have fewer sore throats and fewer to no episodes of PFAPA.
Schedule your appointment with an ENT specialist at our Birmingham Office today
Find out if tonsillectomy could help your child be free from recurrent sore throats and sleep apnea by contacting the surgeons at Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama today by calling (205) 831-0101 or using our online message form.