Expert Advice

How do you know when it’s time to have your tonsils removed?

Tonsils are essentially two round formations of lymphoid tissue that sit in the back of the throat and produce white blood cells to help your body fight against infection. Tonsils are commonly called the first line of defense for your immune system because viruses and bacteria often enter the body through your mouth. As a result, tonsils are highly susceptible to infection, or tonsillitis. Chronic tonsillitis is the most common reason people have their tonsils removed.

Any number of bacterial infections, such as strep throat, can cause tonsillitis, which is characterized by red, swollen tonsils. A person with tonsillitis usually experiences a sore throat, and may have a hoarse or otherwise changed voice. Additional symptoms include pain or discomfort when swallowing, fever, headache, ear pain and bad breath, among others.

For people who only occasionally experience tonsillitis, the ear, nose and throat doctor often will prescribe antibiotics or, for less serious infections, rest and over-the-counter medication. However, for people with chronic tonsillitis, tonsil removal surgery, or tonsillectomy, is an option.

Whether a tonsillectomy is appropriate for you depends on the frequency of your tonsillitis outbreaks. Generally, if a person experiences more than seven episodes in a year, that person is a candidate for tonsillectomy. Similarly, if you’ve experienced multiple (three to five) instances of tonsillitis per year for the previous two to three years, you are also likely a candidate