Most don’t realize it, but our tonsils and adenoids are part of our immune system and help fight off bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the nose and mouth. They are the first line of defense and for the most part, they are good at what they do. However, they themselves can be overwhelmed with infection; instead of fighting off infection, they harbor harmful bacteria and cause other problems. Tonsils are more active during the growth and development phases of childhood which is why they are naturally larger in children compared to adults.
Tonsils and adenoids are located in the back of our throats and when fighting infections, they often get large, red and sore. When they are frequently fighting off infection, bacteria can hide in the deep crevices of the tonsils and cause recurrent strep throat, chronic tonsillitis, ear infections and even abscesses that are notoriously hard to get rid of. Even if they aren’t infected, large tonsils and adenoids can cause trouble with breathing, swallowing and sleeping. It’s not uncommon for kids with enlarged tonsils to snore at night or have a disturbed and poor quality of sleep. School and daily activity performance can suffer along with their overall health, as a result.
When the tonsils and/or adenoids start to cause the problems mentioned above, removal may be necessary. Surgeries to remove the tonsils and adenoids are called tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. They are often done together but may be done separately depending on what needs to be done. When the tonsils are removed, other parts of the immune system take over so there is no compromise to overall health. Actually, when problematic tonsils and adenoids are removed, overall health and wellbeing improve, as the individual has fewer infections and/or better sleep quality and rest.
Because they are still fairly invasive, tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are done under general anesthesia and an overnight stay is not uncommon due to the need to carefully monitor the individual for complications. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgeries are not without their risks, and they should only be considered when the health of the individual is seriously compromised by chronically infected or enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. The recovery period from a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy can run from around 10 days to 2 weeks for most people. Children tend to recover more quickly from these procedures compared to adults. Pain medicine is often needed to alleviate a very sore throat after surgery and swallowing may be painful.