What a tonsil!

Fevers, sore throats, snotty noses and antibiotics. I’m not making any puns when I say I’m sick of it all. I can’t actually count how many courses of antibiotics my son has had in the last six months. Tonsillitis is a frequent caller in our household and it usually visits both my son and I, as I still have my tonsils too.

I remember being sick with tonsillitis a lot myself as a child but I also remember it being something that I outgrew – as my immune system matured, tonsils were no longer as important in protecting my body from infection. And that’s what tonsils do - they’re important pieces of lymphatic tissue that form part of a child’s lymphatic system and they’re perfectly positioned to identify harmful bacteria or viruses that are ingested or inhaled.

Tonsils help by releasing white blood cells to combat the invaders and are also used in the production of antibodies that will be used to prevent future infections. It seems that tonsils have outlived their usefulness by the time early childhood is over, and in some cases they can become more of a hindrance than anything else.

Exposure to bacteria and other airborne nasties can lead to infection, aka our persistent visitor – tonsillitis. When the tonsils are the main sites of infection, they become red and swollen and there may be a coating of white spots on the surface.

Along with these physical indications usually comes pain and difficulty in swallowing, which in turn manifests as a lack of appetite. In short, tonsillitis is sucky, but it is what’s known as a ‘self-limiting’ illness – it will get better without treatment, if there are no complications.

Is it farewell to tonsils?

Constant exposure to bacteria and other nasties will lead to constant infection, and that’s when the tonsils have become problematic and have outlived their usefulness and there’s the option of having them removed.

As parents, we’ve reached that point where we’re done with the antibiotics and the cough medicines and fever suppositories. We’re tired of eating custard and jelly and more than done with trying to coerce an uninterested toddler to eat something, so that he doesn’t have to take his umpteenth dose of medicine on an empty tummy.

Other parents I’ve discussed this with - who’ve all gone through it with their kids - say the tonsillectomy makes the world of difference. No more getting sick. No more antibiotics. No more missing school. Other parents say that it didn’t really make a difference – kids are exposed to a whole variety of bacteria at school, and if there’s a bug going around, they’ll catch it.

As he’s still currently on antibiotics we can’t have his tonsils removed and our paeditrician has advised that we return once the antibiotics are done so that he can take a swab from The Kid’s tonsils to see if any bacteria can be cultivated – if so, then it means that it’s the tonsils that are making him sick – if not, it means that sickness is caused by exposure to external bacteria.

Only once the results are back can we make a decision as to what our next step is – do we remove them, or do we simply wait for him to outgrow this phase? This is one of those instances where we have to ask ourselves: is prevention better than cure?

Have you or your child had the tonsils removed? Did it work for you?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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