17 answers

5Yr Old with Large Tonsils, Can't Catch Breath

My 5 year old has very large tonsils confirmed by two pediatricians. Recently a dentist felt he should be worked up for sleep apnea, and we have an initial appointment for that next week. The pediatricians feel he should see an ENT and we're working on that too.
My main question is if any of you moms out there have ever had an experience with a child with some of his symptoms and how it might have worked out for you. He complains of being unable to catch his breath. He opens his mouth and is still for a minute before taking a deep breath in. And he's a bit hyper (looks like from being tired) by the late afternoon. Sometimes he gets angry over little things with this. Usually by that time, I notice he's breathing pretty heavy at these times. He snores at night and his breathing can seem labored, but he does not stop breathing and gasp. His problem seems to be very present during the daytime.
The pediatricians assure me that he is not in a life threatening situation with his breathing and that his tonsils will not get so big that they will close off his airway, but this certainly is a difficult time of uncertainty for us, and I'm trying to gather as much information as possible.
Anyone with a situation similar to ours with advice or willing to share your story, would help us while we wait for our upcoming appointments, a firm diagnosis and a PLAN!
Many Thanks.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

Thanks to the moms who shared their experiences with our family. We were able to get an appointment with a good ENT and we have definitely opted to schedule the removal of the tonsils and adenoids asap. I'm no fan of having my child have a surgery, but he is in too much distress and the behavior is affecting his family and peer relations adversely. I am particularly grateful to those families who shared their similar symptoms and outcomes in this area. I saw good pediatricians, but they were out of their element with his tonsil, sleep and behavior combination. The ENT and the sleep specialist didn't seem so surprised, and neither did some of you moms!

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WOW!..and why haven't they said..let's take them out?????? And both pedi's didn't reccommend this?....My neice who is asthmatic had problems with her tonsils..got them out at age 4 1/2....sounds like the pediatricians maybe don't have experience in taking out tonsils???...Go see the ENT immediately and get them out asap.

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My son had large tonsils even when he didn't have colds. This affected every aspect of his life including his behavior. He was a very difficult child and often was cranky and acted out. I believe much of it was sleep deprivation from never getting a good nights sleep due to apnea. He had his tonsils and adenoids removed when he was 5 and it was the best decision we ever made. He slept better, wasn't sick all of the time, and his behavior improved dramatically. He was almost like a different kid. In addition to the large tonsils he also had several bouts of strep throat and many trips to the doctor with strep symptoms (many turned out to be viral). Despite what your pediatrician says it is never good for your child to have apnea or labored breathing. I would see your ENT asap!

2 moms found this helpful

Dear Alysa, I am so sorry this is happening; it sounds like an ordeal. I can tell you what happened similarly with my younger daughter and hope this if informative. She had had labored breathing, mouth breathing, and snoring heavily at night all her little life. Breathing through her mouth made her speech very nasal, as though she had a constant cold. Regular doctor told me not to worry, she would grow out it...I wasn't too convinced but also was not oriented toward interventions or mainstream health system anyway, having my kids at home etc...Finally, at age 7, a speech therapist looked in her little throat and said she has HUGE tonsils and that's why she can't breathe or talk normally...So I went to a truly great ENT doctor who confirmed that they were abnormally large, and said while they weren't a health concern, and he was conservative about surgery, he did recommend they be removed. So with great trepidation I had the surgery done, and it was the best thing ever. I could hear her breathing through her nose IN THE RECOVERY ROOM right after surgery! She never snored again, and all other related issues cleared up. I will tell you that it is never a light issue to have a surgery, and really be ready to stress resting and recovering and be vigilant about complications..but anyway, for us it was best decision ever and I wish you a good doctor and good experience as you figure this out.

2 moms found this helpful

My guess is once you see the ENT they will probably recommend removing them. My son had his out when he was 6 due to repeated bouts with strep throat and snoring issues. Since they were removed he has not had strep at all and his sleep is so much better! The first few nights we had to check to make sure he was breathing because he was so much quieter!! By the way, when we were preparing for the procedure I came across some research that showed behavior improvements in children once tonsils were removed. It intrigued me because my son has aspergers so I was hopeful. We didn't notice any change in behavior but that's not to say that it isn't possible.

Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful

My 4 year old has had the same issue and has been snoring at times as loud as an adult since he was 1. Like your child, his prognosis was large tonsils. Coincidently, I had to have a sleep apnea study on myself and the prognosis was to have my tonsils removed. At a pediatrician appt for my son, they mentioned that large tonsils can be hereditary and likely he would have to have his tonsils removed since I too had to them removed (a common surgical practice for children up to about 15 years ago). As with your Dr., they assured me it was not life threatening, however, as with adults, long term sleep apnea can be taxing on the heart. The pediatrian's felt he was too young to have a successful sleep apnea study so we did not opt for that, at least for now. Per the pediatrician, children can sometimes grow out of the snoring due to large tonsils. I don't know if that means growth of the head (mouth) allows more room for the tonsils to be more free. In any event, I have experienced the same with my child and we are basically playing the sit and wait game to see if he outgrows the snoring/sleep apnea. If not, we wil have a sleep study done in a few years and figure out a game plan at that time. However, If your child also complains or feels he has to gasp for air, you may want to also rule out asthma. Good luck, know you're not alone with your experience. :)

1 mom found this helpful

Hello A.: I have had this experiance with the youngest of our 5 children. He went right away to the ENT and Dr. McConkie, made arrangements within a reasonable time period to have them removed along with the adnoids and my son has not had a single problem since (he is 23 now and was 41/2 whenit was done). I have always appreciated this doctor's quick responce. We were concerned that he could choke because he'd gotten to the pont of gagging when he drank liquids and hated to eat solid food.
I wish you well in helping your child and hope for the best solution possible. Nana Glenda

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Be relieved, there is some simple solutions. My son had similar problems and had his tonsils and adenoids removed. Everything improved after that - sleep, behavior, impulse control. You will be amazed. I highly recommend you go to the ENT person first, because they can cut to the chase. The surgery is simple and your child will feel so much better!

1 mom found this helpful

My son had the same problem. After long nights of fevers and infections as well as him not eating, I finally had them removed at 3 years old. Best decision we made! After that he never had snoring, fevers, infectins and his appetite has been turned on! Don't wait, get them removed!

I am very surprised they haven't recommended that they be removed. Definitely check with an ENT this week.

Definitely see and ENT and get their opinion. My son was a terrible eater and was constantly sick with ear infections because of extremely large tonsils. At 2 1/2 tonsils and adenoids were removed and he's been healthy since. Make sure you ask lots of questions about the surgery on what to expect during and after the surgery as every patient is different. Good luck!

Large tonsils seem to run in my family. I can remember having them and my son had them too. Mine came out when I was 5 yrs old. My son has his out as soon as he turned 4. His were not infected. They simply swelled up to the point where it looked like he had 2 huge fleshy marbles at the back of his mouth. They could almost touch each other (kissing tonsils). We went to an ENT and we tried shrinking them with steroids for 2 weeks and it worked for awhile. But as soon as he was off the steroids they swelled right back up again. He snored something awful and they were causing him problems with eating and swallowing. So we had his tonsils and adenoids removed and we've never been sorry we did.

I recently had my daughter see an ENT for this sort of thing. Here's what I've learned from talking with them and others. When a child's tonsils are enlarged you have the issue with trouble breathing. This becomes a big problem because at night, while he may or may not have sleep apnea, he is snoring which is causing him to have poor quality sleep. This poor quality sleep will often translate to behavior issues during the day. My pediatrician said that often children will display ADD/ADHD type behaviors when they are getting poor sleep due to enlarged tonsils. They all recommended having the tonsils and adenoids removed, which is what you will most likely be told by the ENT. And I would say, do it, you will save your son a lot of problems later by getting them out now.

Please hurry to get your sons tonsils removed! You already have 2 pediatrician's opinions. He has trouble breathing during the day and the snoring indicates that it is troubling him at night as well. What more confirmation do you need?
The surgery is routine. My son had his healthy, but enlarged, tonsils and adenoids taken out when he was five years old. It improved his health immediately. He stopped snoring and had restful sleep. The pain was not bad and the recovery time was only a few days. I hope you won't hesitate too long, because in this case the surgery should make a huge difference.

Get them removed and stop your child from suffering. My Grandson suffered until he was 7. We had them removed which was painful but worth it. He is now 10 1/2 and doing great without another problem or even a thought about it. He no longer snores and no longer has chronic sore throat issues. I feel so bad for your baby and your pediatrician needs to wake up and realize this child is suffering! Go to the ENT ASAP!!! Best wishes and I hope this helps to move you to a solution quickly.

My daughter had this problem starting at age 2 1/2. By the time she was three, her breathing was so loud and labored that when she slept, we could hear her across the house. The enlarged tonsils & adenoids were causing frequent ear infections as well, which was causing increasing hearing loss. At her three-year check up, her pediatrician told us that we would probably benefit from taking her to see an ENT. We took her to see Dr. Briggs at Central Park ENT in Arlington. He confirmed that her tonsils were HUGE, and needed to come out immediately. The surgery was relatively stress-free. It was an outpatient procedure, so my daughter got to go in at 8am and we were home by 11. They took out her adenoids, tonsils, and put tubes in her ears. When she woke up during the surgery, she was scared, but that passed quickly when I picked her up & snuggled her. She didn't experience a whole lot of pain, and the results were immediate. That night, she breathed so quietly in her sleep that I kept checking on her to make sure she was still breathing! She even had more energy during the day, because she slept so much better at night. The surgery was such a small price to pay for such wonderful results.
Hope this helps!

WOW!..and why haven't they said..let's take them out?????? And both pedi's didn't reccommend this?....My neice who is asthmatic had problems with her tonsils..got them out at age 4 1/2....sounds like the pediatricians maybe don't have experience in taking out tonsils???...Go see the ENT immediately and get them out asap.

I had an expander put in my daughter's mouth from an orthodontist. We widened her mouth as much as possible aesthetically. Her breathing is much better. Tonsils are an important body part, our first line of defense. :)
Good luck!

We are way past the time when every child had there tonsils out. San Francisco doctors, I think, are way less inclined to remove tonsils, unless apnea is clearly happening (confirmed by sleep study) and/or a certain # of strep infections in a year. My daughter had pneumonia at 4 and thereafter - huge, craggy tonsils. They generally did not bother her, but when she got sick, she would get horrible sore throats and her tonsils would swell to touching, sometimes bleed. The ususal response was to gargle with salt water and that she would grow out of it. Well, it took years! At 19, she rarely gets the bad sore throats. Her friend actually did have apnea and had tonsils removed. Without the apnea, her health and eating improved. But her tonsils were so large, the wound from removal was also large (can't use stitches) so there was a danger of hemorage and recovery was slow. Every case is individual. Best of luck with your decision.

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