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Tonsillitis And Tonsillectomy

Tonsillitis and Tonsillectomy: Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 15:38

Here are some frequently asked questions related to tonsillitis and tonsillectomy:

Q: Years ago, children's tonsils were removed often. Why is it different today?

A: At one time doctors believed that tonsils had no real purpose and routinely removed them to avoid tonsillitis. Today, tonsils and adenoids are seen as perhaps the "first line of defense" against disease-causing germs that enter the body through the nose, mouth, or throat.

Q: Shouldn't a child with tonsillitis always be given penicillin?

A: It depends on the cause of the tonsillitis. If it is caused by bacteria, it should be treated with penicillin or another antibiotic in order to prevent complications. But if it is caused by a virus, it will not respond to any currently known antibiotics.

Q: Our child has recurring bouts with tonsillitis. At what point should we consider tonsillectomy?

A: Tonsillectomy is required when the tonsils are so large they obstruct breathing or swallowing or both. Children with obstructing tonsils commonly sleep restlessly and may have periods during sleep when breathing stops for seconds at a time because of blockage of the airway. In some children, large tonsils alter voice quality. Tonsillectomy also is justified if your child is having repeated bouts of infection, to the point that everyday activities are substantially disrupted despite adequate antibiotic treatment. See the section, "When Is Removal Of The Tonsils Justified" for important details.

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