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Tonsillectomies and children

Children and tonsillectomies

Today, many parents wonder if it is wise for children to have the tonsils taken out. Tonsillectomy may be recommended if your child has any of the following:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Obstructed breathing during sleep
  • Throat infections or throat abscesses that keep returning
 

In most cases, inflammation of the tonsils can be successfully treated with antibiotics. There are always risks associated with surgery.

You and your child's health care provider may consider a tonsillectomy if:

  • Your child has frequent infections (7 or more times in 1 year, 5 or more times over 2 years, or 3 or more times over 3 years).
  • Your child misses a lot of school.
  • Your child snores, has trouble breathing, and has sleep apnea.
  • Your child has an abscess or growth on their tonsils.

References

Goldstein NA. Evaluation and management of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. In: Lesperance MM, ed. Cummings Pediatric Otolaryngology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 3.

Mitchell RB, Archer SM, Ishman SL, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: tonsillectomy in children (update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;160(1_suppl):S1-S42. PMID: 30798778 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30798778/.

Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 411.

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    Review Date: 8/10/2021

    Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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