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My Child Has Sore Throats Frequently: Should They Have Their Tonsils Removed?

My Child Has Sore Throats Frequently: Should They Have Their Tonsils Removed?

When your child wakes up complaining of yet another sore throat, you may wonder if their tonsils are to blame. In the past, tonsillectomy, or tonsil removal, was a common solution for children with recurrent sore throats.

These days, we generally only perform tonsillectomies when they’re absolutely necessary. Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon MD can diagnose the cause of your child’s sore throat and determine the most appropriate treatment. 

Let’s learn more about tonsils and the role they may have in your child’s frequent sore throat episodes.

Tonsils and tonsillitis

Tonsils are two fleshy mounds of lymphatic tissue, located at the back of your throat. They’re an important part of the immune system, which doesn’t fully develop in children until they reach the age of about seven or eight.

The tonsils trap and filter out bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that try to enter the respiratory system, protecting against infection. Tonsils also produce infection-fighting antibodies. 

When the tonsils become overwhelmed by germs, however, they can become swollen and painful — a condition known as tonsillitis. In addition to a sore throat, tonsillitis may present the following symptoms in your child:

Children who are too young to communicate how they feel may exhibit symptoms such as drooling due to being unable to swallow, a loss of appetite, or unusual irritability. 

Tonsillitis typically starts with viruses, like those that cause a cold, flu, measles, or chicken pox. Bacteria including streptococcus, the bacteria behind strep throat, can also infect your tonsils. Bacterial tonsillitis is less common, but it can be more serious.

When should children have their tonsils removed?

While tonsillectomies for children were once a common practice, they’re now reserved for cases where throat infections occur frequently, don’t respond to treatment, or cause other health complications. Your child may need their tonsils removed if:

Strep throat keeps coming back

Occasional throat infections generally aren’t a cause for concern, and can be treated with antibiotics, rest, and plenty of fluids. In fact, an estimated one in three kids come down with strep throat once or several times per year. 

Most children experience fewer throat infections as they get older and their immune system develops. Dr. Tandon can test your child for strep in-office, with convenient, same-day results.

A tonsillectomy may be recommended if your child has more than seven strep throat infections in one year. It’s still possible to contract strep throat after the tonsils are removed, however, it can lower the frequency and severity of symptoms. 

They’re having trouble sleeping

In some cases, inflamed tonsils can obstruct your child’s airways and lead to breathing difficulties, especially at night. If your child always seems tired, snores, or stops breathing for short periods while sleeping (sleep apnea), it could be due to their tonsils.

Poor sleep in kids is linked to developmental, behavioral, and health challenges. If you suspect your child is sleeping poorly due to obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Tandon may suggest a sleep study to confirm before we discuss surgery.

Sore throat solutions

For some kids, especially those with obstructive sleep apnea, tonsil removal can be life-changing. It’s not always necessary, however, as each child’s circumstances are unique.

Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon, MD, and our team in Fountain Valley, California, are here to answer any questions you may have about tonsillectomies and your child’s health. Call or click online to book an appointment today.

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