Removal of the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy.The reasons a child might have his tonsils removed are several and well-defined by the medical community. While surgery of any kind on a child can be frightening, tonsil removal is a considered a minor surgery. The benefits far outweigh the risks, according to the Texas Pediatric Surgical Associates website.
The tonsils are made up of lymphoid tissue, the purpose of which is to produce antibodies to fight germs. Located on either side of the back of the throat, they often become swollen and overloaded with germs, viruses and bacteria. This is especially common in childhood, when the tonsils often become a liability rather than a help.
Swollen tonsils can become inflamed and cause problems such as strep throat and tonsillitis, which is a virus that infects the tonsils. While occasional cases do not necessitate removal of the tonsils, severe, recurring episodes are a reason to consider the surgery. This is especially true if your child suffers from five or more episodes of tonsil infection per year, according to the University of Michigan Health System website. Enlarged tonsils may block the passageway of the throat, causing interrupted breathing. This can have a serious and negative effect on a child’s sleeping patterns.
Tonsil removal in children is done under general anesthesia. After the child is asleep, her mouth is propped open, and the tonsils are cut or burned away. Children are allowed to go home as soon as they can breathe easily, swallow and cough. In many cases, this is as soon as a few hours after surgery.
Complete recovery from the removal of tonsils takes between one and two weeks, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. During that time, children should be kept away from sick people and given cool, soft foods and liquids to help ease the pain in the throat. Popsicles can also help the pain, as can over-the-counter pain relievers. Never give a child aspirin, however, as it can lead to a serious but rare disease.
Tonsillectomies in children not only solve sleep problems, but they can lead to an improvement in behavior, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan. Half the children in the study who had behavior problems severe enough to be classified as ADHD were found to be symptom-free one year after the surgery. This is thought to be related to the fact that these children were sleeping much better with their tonsils removed.