Mother checking tonsils for her child

It’s been a trope in many major sitcoms: the main character sitting in a hospital bed after getting their tonsils removed and devouring a bowl of ice cream. However, the reasons for tonsil removal are more fact than fiction, and it’s important to know when to explore having tonsils removed and what to be prepared for.

What do the tonsils do?

Your tonsils are a pair of soft tissue in the back of the throat. They are a part of your body’s immune system, filled with white blood cells that filter microorganisms and protect your throat against viruses and bacteria. Essentially, they are a line of defense against illness.

What are common tonsil infections?

Despite being a part of the immune system, your tonsils are also prone to certain conditions. Tonsillitis is where the tonsils become inflamed and can be followed by a sore throat, fever, painful blisters, abscesses, and trouble swallowing. This is commonly caused by viruses and bacteria, with the most prevalent bacterial infection being due to group A streptococcus which can lead to strep throat.

When should your tonsils be removed?

There are a multitude of factors that determine whether or not your tonsils should be removed, but a significant reason can be the length and recurrence of your tonsil infections. Acute tonsillitis is where your infection lasts for ten or less days and is generally not an indication for removal. If your infection lasts longer or more frequently, this is known as chronic tonsillitis. With this condition, your physician may recommend a tonsillectomy. Other factors that may lead to having tonsils removed include abscesses, overly enlarged tonsils that can cause loud snoring and airway obstruction leading to sleep apnea, and sometimes overly enlarged tonsils can cause swallowing problems. If you are having frequent bouts of tonsillitis or have chronically enlarged tonsils that are causing difficulty breathing or swallowing, it is best to consult with an otolaryngologist to see if your tonsils might need to be removed.

What should you expect if your otolaryngologist recommends tonsil removal?

Tonsillectomy is a short surgical procedure done under general anesthesia that usually takes about 30 minutes. Adenoidectomy (removal of adenoid tissue in the back of the nose) is usually done at the same time. Most of the time this can be done in a surgical center and the patient goes home the same day, but sometimes it has to be done in a hospital and the patient stays overnight. The risks of surgery are low but include risks of post operative bleeding, infection, risks of anesthesia, changes in taste, changes in swallowing, and changes in voice.

Dr. Stephen Clyne, a CEENTA otolaryngologist who practices out of our Pineville office, highly suggests getting your physician’s opinion about this procedure. “Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is still one of the most common surgical procedures done in the United States and there are many different reasons why this surgery is done. If you feel that you or your child are having chronic tonsil problems, please see one of our highly trained ENT Doctors at CEENTA who can determine if surgery is indicated and guide you through the process and help make the best decision for you and your family.”

What should you do after your tonsils are removed?

After your tonsillectomy, it is recommended that you drink plenty of fluids and stick to soft and cool temperature foods. Your otolaryngologist will manage your pain with either over the counter pain medications or prescription pain medications. You will have a sore throat for 1-2 weeks, but this will eventually subside. To ensure a smoother recovery, it is also advisable to avoid spicy and crunchy foods that can irritate the throat.

When should I see an otolaryngologist?

If you or your child are dealing with recurrent sore throats or difficulty breathing or swallowing and think it might be due to the tonsils, schedule an appointment with a CEENTA otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT doctor. Our team of ENT specialists can provide a throat examination, determine if you or your child have a tonsil infection or chronic tonsil problem and provide treatment options such as a tonsillectomy. Find the relief you need by scheduling with Dr. Clyne at our Pineville location today. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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