My two-year old baby boy has suffered from repeated throat infections since he was born, and these are often accompanied by earache. My GP has recommended that we consider having his tonsils removed. Is this something that you would recommend for such a young child or should we wait until he is older?
Mr Zvoru Makura, Consultant ENT Surgeon, Spire Leeds Hospital
Throat infections are common in children. They are usually viral (like the common cold) and often spread to the ears causing earache. Tonsillectomy is not recommended for viral problems as these can continue after removal of tonsils.
In older children, tonsillectomy is usually recommended if the child has at least six attacks of bacterial tonsillitis (the type that doesn’t get better without antibiotics) during two consecutive years. It is extremely rare for toddlers like your son to get so many attacks of tonsillitis. In toddlers the main reason a doctor may recommend tonsillectomy is to treat obstructive sleep apnoea, which is a life threatening condition associated with the child stopping breathing whilst asleep.
Tonsillectomy is usually carried out in children over four years of age (and above 15 kilograms bodyweight). The smaller the child the riskier the operation in terms of bleeding and the possible need for blood transfusion. It may be a good idea for your son to be referred to an Ear Nose and Throat surgeon for an opinion.