Think Twice Before Removing Your Child’s Tonsils or Adenoids

Studies show a surprising link between tonsil removal and respiratory infections in children.

Think Twice Before Removing Your Child’s Tonsils or Adenoids

You know the old saying, “Your past will come back to haunt you”? That’s certainly the case in the 1945 drama Out of the Past. Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum), a small-town gas station owner, has been laying low after a job went bad back when he was a private eye. His former client, Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas), tracks him down—ostensibly to offer him a new PI job. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Sterling is only interested in framing Bailey for murder.

Well, according to a study in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, when a child has his or her tonsils or adenoids removed, it may be an effective way to provide relief from persistent sore throats and ear infections (it does work), but the surgeries can come back to haunt them.

Researchers from Australia’s University of Melbourne followed over a million children and found having tonsils or adenoids removed before their tenth birthday was linked to a higher risk of respiratory infections and allergic diseases over the following 20 years. It’s possible that removing tonsils or adenoids (part of the child’s still-developing immune system) can affect how susceptible he or she is to certain diseases later on.

This doesn’t mean doctors should stop removing tonsils and adenoids. You and your doc can weigh the risks and benefits (stopping recurring throat/ear infections may win out). If you do opt for the surgery, then work together to track any emerging breathing and allergy symptoms to help control any potential risks.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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