A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Tonsillitis and treatment: When to have tonsillectomy

Mother checking son's temperature - Tonsillitis and tonsillectomy

First indicators of tonsillitis are a sore throat with a temperature above 101F and swollen lymph nodes in the neck area.

It’s not uncommon for a child to become sick. Unfortunately, tonsillitis is just one of those sicknesses your child may encounter.

Bacteria or viruses can cause tonsillitis, but only bacteria-related tonsillitis is treated with antibiotics.

In some instances, your child’s provider may recommend tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) if tonsillitis frequently occurs.

A couple of general rules determine when tonsillectomy is necessary.

How do I know my child has tonsillitis?

“Your first indicators of tonsillitis are a sore throat with a temperature above 101F and swollen lymph nodes in the neck area,” said Dr. Nathan Schreiber, a Marshfield Clinic otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist).

Sometimes a child shows additional symptoms including:

  • Thick white coating on tonsils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Chills

When is tonsillectomy necessary?

Your child’s provider will recommend tonsillectomy when there is documented tonsillitis through pediatrics, emergency or urgent care:

  • Seven times in 12 months
  • Five times per year for two years
  • Three times per year for three years

“If your child has tonsillitis this often or more, tonsillectomy helps reduce episodes,” Schreiber said. “If it’s any less, surgery won’t likely make an impact, although there are some exceptions. More commonly, tonsils are removed for pediatric sleep apnea, which can cause attention problems in school and is usually brought up initially when parents notice snoring.”

Providers also will often remove adenoids (adenoidectomy) during tonsillectomy if your child has recurrent infections.

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