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Why a Tonsillectomy May Help Your Child’s Chronic Ear and Throat Infections


Most parents have been there. You’re putting your child to bed and they begin complaining that their ear is hurting. Your pediatrician’s office closed more than two hours ago so your options are racing to the after-hours clinic or waiting until morning.

Or maybe this is the fourth sore throat your child has had this year. Not only has she missed several days of school, but you’re not excited about the thought of putting her on antibiotics again. Between allergies, the common cold, strep throat, and now COVID-19, it can be hard to figure out what’s going on with your child. And while unpredictable, illness often strikes at what feels like the worst possible time.

How do you know when your child’s sore throat or earache is “just part of childhood,” or whether they’re chronic and it’s time to consider a tonsillectomy?

The What, Where, Why of Tonsils

Located in the back of your throat, tonsils are a pair of soft tissue masses that, along with adenoids, are part of your immune system. Adenoids are located high up in the throat, behind the nose and roof of the mouth and are not visible without special instruments.

Think of tonsils and adenoids as your frontline in defending against bacteria and viruses that enter your body through your mouth or nose. Antibodies in these tissues trap and kill the bacteria to help prevent infection.

Sometimes tonsils (or adenoids) become infected by a bacteria or virus, or are enlarged for unknown reasons, causing your child to become sick.

When Throat Infections Become Chronic

It’s easy to dismiss sore throats and earaches as an unfortunate part of growing up, however, if your child has strep throat or ear infections several times a year, they should see an ENT ( a physician specializing in the ear, nose, and throat; otolaryngologist.)

Your physician will perform a physical examination of the head and neck, possibly using a small mirror or a flexible lighted instrument to better see these areas. If necessary, your child may also receive a throat culture, strep test, or blood test to confirm or diagnose infections that may benefit from antibiotics. If your child is having sleep disturbances, that may be attributed to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a sleep study may be recommended.

Signs a Tonsillectomy May Benefit Your Child

In addition to recurring throat and ear infections, four other signs that indicate your child may benefit from having their tonsils removed include:

  • Difficulty swallowing: if your child has trouble or pain when swallowing while eating or drinking.
  • Breathing through the mouth: if your child’s nose is consistently plugged up and they have to breathe through their mouth which is accompanied by a sour odor.
  • Swollen glands: if your child’s throat is painful and there may be abscesses in the back of the throat and you may actually be able to see their tonsils enlarged.
  • Loud snoring: if your child’s large tonsils or adenoids are partially obstructing their airway you may notice loud snoring, or even labored breathing as they sleep. This may result in disrupted sleep or excessive tiredness during the day.
  • Your child’s strep throat or ear infections are not responding to antibiotics.

If your doctor indicates removing the tonsils (and sometimes adenoids) may benefit your child, a tonsillectomy is a common outpatient procedure, typically lasting 20-30 minutes.

Book An Appointment Today to Discuss Your Options

The team at ENT Memphis, led by Rande Lazar, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the ear, nose, and throat and has extensive experience in pediatric otolaryngology.

We know that the sleepless nights, missed school days, and worry are likely weighing on you as a parent. We also understand that considering surgery for your child is a big decision. We would love the opportunity to discuss your child’s symptoms, as well as a treatment plan that you’re both at ease with, and can improve their health. To book an appointment, please call our office at 901.821.4300 or schedule one today through our website.

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