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Removing Tonsils and Adenoids: Is it Right for Your Child?

Having your tonsils out was once a common childhood surgery, thought to break the endless cycle of throat and ear infections.

Removing tonsils and adenoids was once virtually a childhood ritual. Thought to be a problem when they were frequently inflamed, these tissues are now seen as an important part of your child’s immune system. 

While it used to be thought that tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies would end chronic earaches and breathing obstructions, it’s now known that chances of respiratory infections are substantially increased, and they will be until your child reaches 30. These problems include asthma and susceptibility to pneumonia.

Could it be that the earaches and breathing issues are a normal part of a child’s development? Thinking in the pediatric care world is changing to incorporate this possibility and these “traditional” childhood surgeries are being viewed from a new angle. 

The role of tonsils and adenoids

The tissue of both tonsils and adenoids acts as a bacterial and viral filter, a way to attract and trap these infecting agents before they pass further into your child’s body. Though this tissue may become inflamed and swollen, it forms a focal point upon which your child’s developing immune system can act, building the antibodies necessary to fight infection.

As your child gets older, the adenoids shrink to the point they’re virtually gone by puberty. Tonsils become inflamed less often to the point that they no longer contribute to health issues. However, there do remain times when removing these tissues is recommended.

Frequent infections

Infections of the throat are common. There does come a point, however, when infections become frequent enough to disrupt your child’s daily life. The definition of “frequent” is somewhat variable, between the perspective of a busy parent who is dealing with their child’s illness downtime and that of the medical profession. Currently, doctors regard infections as frequent when: 

If your child is sick this frequently, then removal of tonsils and adenoids may be a consideration.

Sleep disruptions

Growing bodies sometimes add complications. Your child’s nose and throat structure may be such that the swelling and enlargement of tonsil and adenoid tissue causes blockages that make breathing difficult. These tissues themselves may also be larger than in others, causing similar issues.

Typically thought of as a middle-aged adult problem, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can occur in children, particularly when swollen tissue adds to the natural relaxation of soft tissue in the throat and causes breathing stoppages during sleep. Your child will partially wake through the night to re-start breathing, but these interruptions prevent the restful and restorative deep sleep stages needed for good health.

If throat infections contribute to OSA, then tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be recommended.

Choosing surgery for your child is never an easy decision. Enlisting the aid of Dr. Scott Bateman at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat provides you with knowledgeable medical partnership. Dr. Bateman can help you through the pros and cons of surgery so you can make the best choice for your child. Call the office or make an appointment using the online tool on this page. Your child’s health is your key priority, so book your consultation today. 

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