How do you know if you should remove your child's tonsils?
Just like so many other things, the question of whether or not to remove a child’s tonsils is answered differently from generation to generation. So what is it? Do you let your child suffer through numerous bouts of tonsillitis and strep or do you have the tonsils removed-removing the major cause of the problem?
What are tonsils?
Tonsils are two pieces of oval-shaped tissue that are located in the back of your mouth at the top of your throat. Their purpose? To help your body ward off infection. The problem is that all too often, the tonsils become infected.
When your child’s tonsils become infected, they will experience pain, difficulty and pain in swallowing, chills, fever and possibly even an earache.
Should they come out
The first time your child has an episode of tonsillitis is not reason to panic and rush to the conclusion that surgery is necessary to eliminate the problem. Most every child has an episode or two of tonsillitis each year. Having your child’s tonsils removed should only be done if absolutely necessary.
‘Necessary’, is defined as six episodes of tonsillitis in a year or more than four infections that cause fever and chills in a year for two years. If your child meets this criteria, you need to talk with your pediatrician to discuss the situation and come to a decision on what best for your child.
The procedure of removing your child’s tonsils will take place in a hospital or surgical clinic. You will likely have to be there early to mid-morning; your child having nothing to eat or drink since midnight the night before. Following the surgery and a short period of time in the recovery area, you will be allowed to take your child home; with orders to follow a set of instructions for a safe recovery and warnings of what to watch for in regard to problems.
Once you get home with your little patient, here is what you can expect…
- Pain. Once the anesthetic wears off, your child is going to be in pain. Their throat is going to hurt more than any episode of tonsillitis they had. The doctor will prescribe either mild pain relievers or children’s OTC pain relievers on a more frequent basis. The medication will need to be liquid form, as swallowing will be difficult for the next several days.
- There will be minimal bleeding after surgery. Saliva tinged with blood for the first 24 hours is not anything to be concerned about. However, if bleeding persists or if your child begins to vomit blood, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
- Patients who have their tonsils removed will often develop an earache. As if the pain in their throat isn’t enough, the throbbing of their ears will call for plenty of TLC and pain reliever.
- Bad breath and a bad taste in their mouth. The scab that forms in their throat leaves a horrible taste and smell in their mouths. There’s nothing you can do about it-it will subside once the incisions heal.
Caring for the patient
Caring for your child following a tonsillectomy is pretty serious business. It is necessary to keep them comfortable and as free from pain as possible. Crying because of the pain will only serve to make things worse.
Additionally, you need to be careful to feed your child only cold or cool liquids and soft foods. Yes, the old cliché of eating lots of ice cream is true. Do NOT let your child use a straw, however. The sucking motion can break the clotting blood loose and cause bleeding.
Other foods that work include instant pudding, ice chips, yogurt and gelatin. Do NOT give your child hot or even warm foods and liquids or acidic juices. These are irritating to the incision and hinder the healing process.
Ear aches that usually accompany tonsil surgery should be treated with liquid pain relievers and warm (as hot as safely possible) compresses held to the ear. A heating pad on low heat will work very well.
Don’t push them to talk. This is a child we’re talking about. When they feel like doing so, they’ll talk. Don’t worry.
How long should recovery take
As the mum of children who have had their tonsils removed, I can tell you first-hand that recovery takes longer than they doctor will tell you. It is not at all unrealistic to say that it will take 2-3 weeks before your child begins to feel like him/her self again. But more specifically, the 3rd and 5th days following the surgery are definitely the most difficult and painful for your child. Why? Who knows. They just are. Aside from that, how they feel will depend largely on the severity and frequency of earaches, what they eat and how well they ‘behave’ during recovery.
If your child undergoes a tonsillectomy, give them plenty of TLC and allow them to heal at their own pace. Bathe them regularly, keep them comfortable and provide sedentary activities for them to enjoy in order to help them keep their mind off their ‘troubles’.
And then what
Once your child has recovered from their surgery and has resumed their normal activities and routine, you should notice a significant difference in their overall health. With the source of infection gone from their body, your child will likely experience fewer episodes of illnesses.