If your child often has a sore throat, trouble swallowing, and ear pain, she may need to have her tonsils removed. This procedure is called a Tonsillectomy.

The tonsils are small, dimpled, golf ball-like nodes on either side of the back of your child's throat. They normally filter out bacteria and other germs to prevent infection in the body. If the tonsils become so overwhelmed with bacteria from strep throat or a viral infection, they can swell and become inflamed, causing tonsillitis. Although the tonsils are part of your child's immune system, and aren't removed routinely anymore, if your child has repeated infections or has trouble breathing from inflamed tonsils, she may need to have this tonsil removal surgery.

Before the procedure, your child's doctor may ask your child to have blood tests or a physical examination. You should tell your doctor what drugs your child is taking, or any vitamins you have bought without a prescription. On the day of surgery, your child will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for several hours before the surgery, and make sure you give your child any drugs your doctor told you to give your child with a small sip of water.

So, what happens during a tonsillectomy?
Your child will be given general anesthesia. She'll be asleep and unable to feel pain. The surgeon will insert a small tool into your child's mouth to prop it open. Then the surgeon will cut or burn away the tonsils. The doctor will control bleeding, and the cuts will heal naturally without stitches.

When will my child go home?
Your child will probably go home the same day as surgery. Complete recovery takes about one to two weeks. During the first week or so, your child should avoid people who are sick so she doesn't become infected easily. Have your child gently gargle often with baking soda mixed with water. Soft foods and cool drinks will make her throat feel better too.

Tonsillectomy is one of the most common reasons children have surgery. But surgery doesn't have to be all bad. Your child can look forward to a steady diet of pudding, ice cream, and other soft and fun foods, until they feel better. And your child can hopefully look forward to fewer sore throats and ear infections in the future.


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/25/2011
  • Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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