What are tonsils?

Tonsils are the two tissue masses found on either side of the throat. They are the first line of the immune system, stopping germs from entering the throat. When working properly, tonsils fight infection. However, tonsils may become enlarged due to tonsillitis, tonsil abscesses, and other infections.

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. The most common symptoms of tonsillitis are swollen tonsils and throat pain. Many individuals experiencing tonsillitis experience other symptoms as well:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Red tonsils, often with white or yellow coating on them
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Change in voice
  • Chronic “stuffy” or runny nose
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Restless sleeping
  • Snoring or loud breathing
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose

What is a tonsillectomy?

When enlarged, tonsils cause difficulty when breathing or swallowing.  Doctors may suggest removing the tonsils, a surgery called a tonsillectomy, if the symptoms become too troublesome or interfere with daily activities. Often, tonsillectomies are recommended for individuals who experience frequent strep throat, reoccurring tonsillitis, difficult breathing, or sleep apnea.

To determine whether a tonsillectomy is needed, the doctor will look into the throat with a lighted instrument and small mirror to examine the tonsils. The doctor will also examine the ear, nose, throat, and neck to check for other potential medical conditions. X-rays, throat cultures, sleep studies, and blood work may also be required to determine if the tonsils should be removed.

Tonsillectomies require general anesthesia and typically take no more than twenty minutes to complete. There are no incisions on the skin as tonsillectomies are done through the open mouth. Recovery time varies, but typically lasts one week. Tonsillectomies do cause some pain and discomfort because the throat muscles under the tonsils are newly exposed after the tonsils are removed. Tonsillectomy patients should expect to have trouble eating and swallowing for a few days following the procedure.

Does your child need his or her tonsils removed?

Jean Brown Research is currently conducting a clinical study for an investigational pain medication to be used after tonsillectomies. Qualified study participants receive study-related procedures and investigational medication at no cost. Also, they may be compensated for study-related time and travel. Participants must be a minimum of two years of age and otherwise healthy.

Find out more about the Jean Brown Research tonsil clinical study here.