Phone: 973-940-3166
Fax: 973-940-3170
Billing: 570-386-2366

Does My Child Need a Tonsillectomy?


If your child suffers from frequent sore throats, you may wonder if they should have their tonsils removed. The answer is: it depends.

The tonsils are twin oval-shaped lumps of tissue in the throat that produce disease-fighting white blood cells. Removing the tonsils, called a tonsillectomy, is a relatively common procedure. About 530,000 children under 15 have it done each year.

But like any surgery, tonsillectomy carries some risks, and the recovery is painful. Guidelinesfrom American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery recommend the surgery be performed on children only in limited circumstances:

  • The tonsils are so enlarged they are causing sleep apnea, a condition where the airway becomes blocked during sleep. This hampers breathing and disrupts the child’s sleep. Children with sleep apnea may have problems with slow growth, hyperactive behavior, poor school performance, and bedwetting.
  • The child has frequent throat infections. Frequent is defined as at least seven infections in one year, at least five infections per year over two years, or at least three infections per year over three years.
  • The child has a bacterial infection that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, or the child develops an abscess behind a tonsil that can’t be treated with drugs or a drainage procedure.

A tonsillectomy may also be needed to treat certain rare diseases, such as cancer in the tonsils or recurrent bleeding near the surface of the tonsils.

If your child does need a tonsillectomy, it will usually be done as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia. Recovery can be painful and will probably take 10 days to two weeks. You’ll need to make sure your child takes pain medications your doctors recommends and drinks plenty of fluids.

The one consolation for the pain: Your child will have a good excuse to eat ice cream, milkshakes, and popsicles.

If you’re wondering if your child needs tonsil surgery, contact us for an evaluation.

Specialty Surgical Center is located in Sparta, New Jersey, and our staff consists of board certified surgeons and anesthesiologists performing procedures in orthopedics, sports medicine, spinal care, podiatry, urology, pain management, ENT, hand surgery, lithotripsy, brachytherapy, GYN, and laser surgery.

For more information about Specialty Surgical Center, call 973-940-3166 or visit our Contact Page.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.