Tonsillitis in Children -- Is Surgery Helpful?
My Personal Experience
Back In The Day
When I was a little girl, I was sick quite often. I can remember having such horrible pain in my throat that sipping water was like swallowing fire. What was the cause of such horrible pain? Tonsillitis (the two little things in the back of the throat that hang down on the left and right). It's common young children, a simple cold that can turn into an infection within the tonsils, not only causing pain in throat, but often times travels up to the ears as well.
I had my tonsils removed when I was six years old. Back in the day this surgery required a two night stay in the hospital for post-op observation. I remember my mom being very clear about what to expect after the surgery, "It's going to hurt, honey. Don't try to talk because it will only make it hurt more." So, like a good (and scared) little girl, I kept my mouth zipped tight. My roommate, however, apparently didn't get the same memo. She cried, she screamed, she did everything my mom had told me not to do... and she ended up back in the operating room due to bleeding after breaking her stitches open.
After my surgery I went from being sick at least five times each winter, to only one or two common head colds. What a difference!
Thanks to the progression of modern medicine, a two night stay is no longer required for this "minor surgery".
When my son was born, I was overjoyed!. When he had his first round of tonsillitis at the tender age of 2 months, I was heartbroken. I knew he was in pain, I clearly remember all of the horrible pain I had as a kid, but when they are that little, there's not a whole lot that can be done during that time when the doctor prescribes the antibiotic and when it actually starts to work enough to relieve the pain.
Little did I know, this was just the beginning of a very painful and expensive cycle. My son would get sick, he'd be put on antibiotics, he'd feel better, and two to three weeks later, he'd be sick again. He was sick so often during the winter months, that just pulling into the parking lot of the doctor's office would send him into a frenzy. When he was just 21 months old, my pediatrician referred me to an Otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor, ENT).
When we arrived at the ENT my son was, of course, sick with his um-teenth round of tonsillitis and was very cranky. After being poked and prodded so often by the regular Pediatrician, my son had gotten really good at clenching his jaw if he thought someone wanted to look in his mouth. But thanks to the ENT's wonderful, and playful, bedside manner, my son finally opened up for his exam.
I remember the ENT's eyes getting big and him saying, "I don't know how this kid can eat, there's no room back there. And if his adenoids are anything like this, and they usually are, I don't know how he can breathe. We definitely need to get those out."
Now, as a mom, two emotions just flashed through me... relief, knowing that they could make my son healthy, and fear, the thought of my son going "under the knife" scared the living heck out of me.
Apparently the ENT could see the fear on my face, so he reassured me that the surgery was a lot less invasive than it once had been. My son would not be required to spend the night in the hospital at all. He would be admitted in the early morning and discharged later in the afternoon, after he was able to drink fluids without getting sick and had a wet diaper. The big catch, he had to be either two years old, or weigh thirty pounds, for safety reasons.
Two months after turning two, and waiting for that small window between rounds of tonsillitis, we were at the surgical center.
My son's surgery was in November that year, cold and flu season, and after his surgery he was only sick one time... with a minor head cold. He is now twelve years old, and the only antibiotic he's had to take since his surgery was for a scratch he got on his cornea playing with a friend.
Do I think the surgery made a difference. Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes, and I did, when my daughter was five years old and had been to the doctor seven times in an eight month period for tonsillitis. Were the results the same? Yes.