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

There was a time when having your tonsils and adenoids removed was almost a rite of passage for most adolescents — or at least, any child who had ear infections or strep throat. But today, that’s changed. While the procedures are certainly still performed, today tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are reserved for children with specific health profiles, kids whose health could be improved by removing the tonsils and adenoids.

At ENT Specialists, we offer state-of-the-art tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies for our patients who could benefit from the procedures. As a top pediatric ENT practice in Utah, we use the most advanced surgical and diagnostic techniques to ensure optimal outcomes for every patient we treat. Here’s what you should know about tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy — and whether they just might be a good choice for your child.

What do tonsils and adenoids do?

Tonsils and adenoids are small masses of soft tissue that help fight off infection. Tonsils are located at the back of the throat, and adenoids are found at the very back of the roof of the mouth. Both tonsils and adenoids are composed of fleshy, soft tissue, and both are part of the lymphatic system. 

Adenoids and tonsils act like germ-fighting “filters,” trapping germs from the air we breathe and preventing those germs from traveling down into the respiratory system. But sometimes, they can become overloaded by bacteria or viruses, and that’s when an infection occurs. Infection in the tonsils and adenoids typically causes swelling, and because of their locations, even moderate swelling can wind up making it harder to breathe.

Making the decision for your child

There are two main reasons why tonsil and adenoid removal might be a good choice for your child:

Recurrent infections

As a first-line of defense against germs, tonsils and adenoids play an important role in keeping the body healthy. But some adenoids and tonsils are more susceptible to getting infected by these germs, and that means your child may have recurrent throat infections. Ear infections can also be more common, since the ears and throat are connected by small tubes called Eustachian tubes.

Infected tonsils and adenoids cause problems like sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and fever. While an occasional infection isn’t uncommon, if your child has multiple throat or ear infections in a single year, or if they’ve had several infections over the past two or three year, they might be a good candidate for tonsil and adenoid removal. Removing tonsils and adenoids that are prone to infection can help reduce the risk of strep infections and upper respiratory infections, as well.

Trouble sleeping or breathing

If your child’s adenoids or tonsils are larger than normal, they might interfere with normal breathing. That can affect your child during the day as well as at night, when your child is asleep. In fact, enlarged tonsils or adenoids may cause a chronic condition called sleep apnea, where your child’s breathing is interrupted repeatedly while they sleep. 

Sleep apnea can increase your child’s risk for heart problems, and it can delay their overall development and growth, too. Plus, when your child isn’t sleeping, they’ll be drowsy during the day, which means they’re more likely to have poor school performance, learning delays, and even behavioral problems. Improving breathing by removing enlarged adenoids and tonsils can help your child get the rest they need so they’re less likely to encounter those issues.

While in the past, chronic infection was the primary reason for having tonsils and adenoids removed, today about 80% of surgeries are performed to correct childhood sleep apnea. The remaining 20% are due to chronic infections.

These are the two most common reasons for having tonsils and adenoids removed. Other less common medical conditions may also warrant removal, like an abscess that doesn’t respond to medication. Your child’s doctor will be able to determine if the symptoms your child is experiencing support a need for surgery.

Help your child stay healthy

Of course, breathing problems and infections can have other causes, too. If your child has any of these symptoms, or if they have other problems with their throat or their breathing patterns, having an evaluation is the best way to make sure they’re getting the care they need to stay healthy. To schedule an evaluation for your child, use our online booking tool to request an appointment or call one of our five Utah locations today.

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