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Tonsils are glands in the back of the throat that develop around the third year of age. Along with the adenoids, which are located higher up, they are designed to trap and eliminate the germs we inhale. On occasion, especially in school-age kids, the tonsils become infected by the very germs they’re meant to destroy, and either strep or a virus will cause fever or sore throat or both. In spite of these rare occurrences, most kids will live in perfect harmony with their glands.
However, others may experience ongoing problems.
Recurrent Throat Infection
Some tonsils are especially susceptible to germ trapping, and affected kids will develop multiple strep infections throughout the year. As a result, they’ll miss considerable amounts of school and have to endure countless courses of antibiotics.
If they become enlarged, the tonsils can obstruct the airway and cause snoring at night. Snoring in itself (even if it is loud) and the size of the tonsils are not so much the problem, since these glands will naturally shrink within a couple of years and the snoring will subside. However, if the enlargement causes sleep apnea (a condition in which your child’s breathing stops several times a night for periods of five seconds and then resumes with a couple gasps), bring it to your doctor’s attention. This could have repercussions on Jimmy’s heart, which must work harder to supply his body with oxygen during episodes of apnea [See: Snoring and Sleep Apnea].
If your child experiences at least five to seven episodes of strep throat a year or is diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will probably suggest tonsil removal. This surgery, done under general anesthesia, is safe but more uncomfortable than adenoid removal, with more postoperative pain and a slight risk of bleeding [See: Adenoids]. The operation dramatically reduces recurrent strep infections and sleep apnea. An increasingly popular new laser technique is supposed to offer faster recovery and fewer complications.