Q: How do I decide if my child's tonsils should be removed?
A: It's often a tough call. Twenty-five years ago, the cure for chronic sore throats in kids was to remove their tonsils and adenoids. Today, doctors know that sometimes tonsillitis can be outgrown, so if this is your child's main problem, doctors may recommend a "wait and see" approach before recommending surgery. But what constitutes a serious chronic condition is debatable: The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery points to a study showing the benefit of tonsil removal for kids who have had three or more tonsil infections in a year. Other medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may not be necessary unless the child has had seven infections in one year or five infections in each of two years. However, a tonsillectomy (and typically a simultaneous adenoidectomy) is recommended if the tonsils are so large they obstruct breathing or swallowing, or if your child is diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where children briefly stop breathing during sleep and wake up frequently throughout the night. But there's no research that definitively proves what's most appropriate, so if your doctor recommends surgery and you're unsure about it, it's a good idea to seek a second opinion. --Amy Linn
Copyright © 2003 Amy Linn. Reprinted with permission from the October 2003 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009