Understanding Tonsillitis

If your child often has a sore throat, you may wonder whether he or she has tonsillitis, or inflamed tonsils. This is a common condition in many children. In the first few years of life, the tonsils, part of the body's lymph system, help protect the body against germs, and they often become infected.

Not that long ago, children who had frequent sore throats often had their tonsils removed in a procedure called a tonsillectomy, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Now, doctors are more likely to take a “wait and see” approach. Studies have shown that surgery may not be helpful for all cases. And, there are risks with any surgery, such as bleeding and infection.

So, how will your child’s doctor decide if the procedure is necessary? These are factors that may indicate that surgery is needed:

  • Seven or more cases of tonsillitis in one year, or five times a year in each of two years

  • Enlarged tonsils that interfere with breathing

  • An abscess, or collection of pus indicating infection, in the tonsils

  • Trouble sleeping as a result of problems from repeated tonsillitis 

If your child does need a tonsillectomy, don’t worry about how he or she will fight off future infections. As your child matures, the tonsils become less important as germ-fighters. The rest of your child’s immune system can offer all the protection that he or she needs.