Tonsil stones form when food, mucous and dead cells collect in your tonsils.
Tonsil stones form when food, mucous and dead cells collect in your tonsils.
Right. You know they are somewhere in your throat and they seem to get infected easily. But there’s quite a bit more to them than that.

Tonsils are half-moon shaped and are located just behind your nose and mouth. They lie on either side of the so-called little tongue of the soft palate. They help the body fight against particularly yucky germs and are part of your lymphatic system. They may also assist the body in staying healthy by forming antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses.

Tonsils trap the stuff that won’t go down well elsewhere in your body. No wonder they get easily infected, but their shape also doesn’t help.

OK, something that traps germs, which gets infected easily. Seems like a bit of a design problem, doesn’t it?

Out go the tonsils
That’s why so many children used to have their tonsils removed. These days doctors tend to delay whipping them out quite so quickly. Tonsils caused more problems than they solved – especially in the days before antibiotics. Recurring bouts of tonsillitis are no fun at all, as they can lead to high fevers, severe pain in the throat and sometimes even breathing problems.

You will know when you have tonsillitis. It’s so definitely not just the sniffles and a vague sore throat. It can be very painful, your tonsils will be red and swollen and your breath will remind you of a Retriever’s. Your glands may also be swollen, and to top it all, you could have a fever and a headache. There could also be a discharge on your tonsils. It doesn’t just sound grim – it is. But fortunately help is at hand in the form of antibiotics.

Streptococcus infection can also be the villain behind constant bouts of tonsillitis. This could be dangerous and needs to be seen to by a doctor.

But it would appear that tonsils performed their most important function in the first year of a baby’s life. Interestingly enough, kids who have their tonsils removed, do not become ill more frequently than other kids.

But by the time you’re old enough to be reading the Man Zone on Health24, you should no longer have many problems with your tonsils.

Interesting facts

  • It is thought that the nasty little viruses responsible for the common cold, also cause tonsillitis.
  • Tonsils cannot grow back in their entirety – once they’ve been removed, that’s it. If they have not been completely removed, a small section of them can grow back, but only if some tissue remains after a tonsillectomy.
  • When kids have their tonsils removed, they should be all right within four or five days. However, adults can take up to ten days to recover.
  • Infected tonsils can cause both snoring and sleep apnoea – neither of which will necessarily endear you to your partner
  • (Health24, February 2006)

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