32 answers

Tonsilectomy in a 3 Year Old??

I've had two doctors now recommend a tonsilectomy for my 3 1/2 year old. Her tonsils are enormous. (Just like mine were. I had mine out at 18 and it was the worst experience of my life! But I am much more healthy now.). She has sleep apnea (although she sleeps pretty well despite this) and snores horribly. And recently when she got sick, they were so enlarged that they nearly touched. She had a hard time swollowing and often had to cough to get food stuck back there to come out. And after two rounds of antibiotics, she continued to have pustules on her tonsils, which might indicate chronic infection. So I realize that there are probably good reasons to consider this surgery. But she is so young, and very small for her age. So I'm nervous about putting her under and about how the recovery will go. Does anyone out there have any experience with this surgery on a child so young? And have you noticed any improvements since the surgery that would make me decide that it is worth it to do? Thanks!


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So What Happened?™

Thank you so much, everyone, for your great advice and anecdotes. Based on all the advice I got here, we went through with it. It went great! She ran in the house from the hospital and requested 2 bowls of ice cream and a bowl of macaroni and cheese. She had maybe 1 or 2 days of being a little crabby, and that's all the effect it had on her! And my little girl who used to snore, even while awake, now sleeps completely silently. Although she doesn't sleep any longer, I know she sleeps deeper now. And her eating has improved too, now that those giant tonsils are out of the way. I'm sure she'll be more healthy for the rest of her life, so thanks for giving me the courage I needed to do this surgery!

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Do it! Both of my daughters (now 12 and 14) had their tonsils out young. The younger they are the quicker they heal and the easier it is on them. I have heard from several people I talk to that tonsilectomy's are like chicken pox...the younger the better as far as pain and healing.

I had mine out at 18, too. It WAS horrible. There was a 3-year old in recovery with me. She cried and I attempted to comfort her in my semi-conscious state. As soon as she woke up all the way, she asked for toast.
The younger they are, the faster they recover. It sounds like a good solution for her, especially with sleep apnea.
Good luck!

I got my tonsils out at 16 and it was horrible. The recovery was weeks and weeks... On the other hand, my niece got hers out when she was 2 and she was back to normal in a couple of days. She never had any long term effects and hasn't had an ear infection or throat infection since and it has been 5.5 years. My friends little girl (who is 3) just got hers out and after a couple days was much better.

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I know this is young for surgery, but considering what is already happening, I would recommend you have her tonsils out. I had bad tonsils from early childhood, parents who didn't think tonsillectomy was necessary. Suffered MANY bouts of ear infection, strep infection. Finally grown and on my own, with kids of my own, had them out after 6 major strep infections in a year. Doc had to cut really deep to remove all the infected tissue. Took 3 weeks before I could eat any solid food. It's been more than 20 years, food sometimes still gets stuck in the scar tissue. You must also consider the effect having chronically infected tonsils will have on the other organs and immuno system. I am to this day, more suceptible to virus and bacteria, do have, not major, but slight weaknesses in lungs and heart.
As for the surgery, one of my daughters at age 3 fell on a broken pop bottle and sliced an artery and hand muscle. Surgery wasn't an elective procedure. There was, needless to say great panic going to emergency, but the team was great, she was constantly monitored. My advice would be, that as this surgery is elective, ask a few questions and choose a good surgical/recovery team. There is always risk with any surgery, no matter how small. The risks of letting your daughter continue with this constant infection are, however, greater than the risk associated with the procedure.

1 mom found this helpful

YES!!! My daughter was 2 1/2 and the exact same scenario. My mom waited until I was 18 and I agree, it was awful!!!
She did 100% turn around, she recooped in a few days, it was a hard few days of some pain but they managed it well and they kept her over night (I strongly recommend this as the nurses can really keep close tabs on her those first 24 hours and you can bunk in the room with her!!). But she slept like a DREAM afterwards! She went from sleeping horribly, to getting sick all the time to rarely ever getting sick and hasn't even missed a day of school this year. The sleep thing was the biggest issue for us as she had sleep apnea too. The biggest thing they will say is to keep her hydrated after, even if it hurts to swallow.

I strongly recommend if they have said twice and her tonsils are enormous do this for her relief. The sleep issue alone can cause so many problems for little ones.
They bounce back a lot faster then we did at 18 I promise!! My daugher was up and about like normal by the sixth day 100% herself. The first few days are the hardest but if you stay overnight at the hospital they will get you through the worst part of it. I had my daughter sleep with me and I kept the pain meds going so she never got to the point of bad pain and kept her hydrated.

If you have no history in your family of issues with anesthesia then more then likely it will be fine. Have her take her favorite toy and they will let it go in with her. My daugher took a doll and they put a hair net on the doll and a wrist hospital band too!

They will allow you to remain with her until she is asleep and be there when she is waking up. It is hard when they first wake up, she will be disoriented, scared, in pain and out of it, but you being there will be priceless for her.

Hugs, it is hard to think of surgery but this literally was a positive choice I made for my daughter that young, she was even younger then yours! :)

I have had adnoids & ear tubes put in my 3 year old. WOW what a difference in his health. Colds/coughs last 2-3 days not weeks (he's 5 now). At the time, we were Kaiser clients and had it done at their Franklin Building downtown (next to St Joe's). It was outpatient Surgery. Definitely worth the stress over his age. And we were allowed to be in with him while they sedated him. Surgery was less than 1/2 hour. Not sure how long Tonsils would be.

If you can, maybe see if your Dr's work out of Children's Hospital. They work with kids all the time. I always go to their ER if need be. This way we know we'll get an ER Pediatrician specialist.

Good Luck with your decision. I know it's hard to do that for a little one, but I recommend it (especially since you already have 2 Dr's recommending it too).

I am a surgical nurse and mother of a 6 year old little girl we see a lot of little ones for tonsils and adenoids in the OR. I would do it in a heartbeat if I was in your place. The sleep apnea is a lot scarier to me than the surgery. Chances are she will not remember much of it down the road; it will be more traumatizing for you worrying about her. As long as you are calm and reassuring to her she will do great! It is true kiddos bounce back much faster than the adults. If you need a good ENT surgeon call your local hospital and ask for surgery, when you get the nurse on the line ask which doctor they would send their child to. Or if you have a surgeon already and want to know if he/she is good just ask if they would take their child to him/her. The nurse should be able to help you out with a yes or no as not to slander a doctor. Hope this helps and best of luck to you and your daughter.

Do it! The younger, the easier. It is worth it.


My now 8 yr old daughter was either 2 going on 3 or 3 going on 4 when she had her tonsils removed. The EENT took one look in her throat and said "We need to get surgery scheduled as soon as possible." She knew that she was having surgery but I don't think she knew that that meant. I was more scared than she was. With my daughter, the surgery went a little longer that I was expecting but the doctor came out and said that everything went great. When she woke up, her biggest concern was that her nose was stuffy and she couldn't smell anything. When we came home, I gave her the pain meds they prescribed the first night, but then just went with childrens tylenol/motrin afterwards. She didn't really complain about the pain. As for as noticing any improvement, at first I did, however, at night she still snores (the reason for the surgery in the first place and because of constant infection). Some nights its really bad, other nights she goes most of the night without snoring and then sometime during the night it starts up. I would say, being that they are so enlarged that they are almost touching, I would say go with the surgery. The anesthiologist will be there the whole time monitoring your child. Also, I don't know about where you are, but I was able to bring my daughter in her own PJ's and she was also able to take a favorite stuffed animal in with her. Good luck!!

My daughter had hers removed at 2 1/2 and she is a much happier child-I would do it again. But she was stubborn after the surgery and wouldn't eat or drink anything and it made it more painful for her. Really push the fluids-they aren't optional.

My son had his tonsils out when he was 3. He had sleep apnea and odd fevers that we could never find a cause for. Our nurse practitioner sent us to an ENT and we had his adinoids and tonsils out. His sleep was immediatly better and the mysterious fevers stopped. I was very difficult for me to see him wheeled away for surgery and the time he spent in surgery seemed like an eternity even though it wasn't more than an hour. Recovery had its ups and downs. He was on pain meds at first which helped. He was great for a week and then the scabs sloughed off which brought more pain for a day or two. Then he was great. We did have to restrict his activity for a few weeks to lower the chance of bleeding which was a challenge with an active 3 year old. I would do it again in a heart beat tho. Good luck and go with your gut.

We had our sons tonsils removed at the same age and I have no regrets at all. It was traumatic for me (same issues - not wanting him to have surgery, etc) but in the end it was the best thing we could do. His speech improved, his breathing was much better, he no longer snored AT ALL and best of all in the course of less than 1 year he gained almost 10 pounds!


My daughter had hers removed at 2 1/2 years. It was the best thing we ever did. Cleared her apnea, snoring, swallowing and speech problems right away. Plus, she never had strep again. I would totally recommend it (as a nurse and a mom)! If your insurance will cover it, I would ABSOLUTELY take her to The Children's Hospital. They are fabulous! Good luck!


My friend's 4 year old just had a tonsillectomy because of sleep apnea, extremely swollen tonsils, all the same reasons your doctors are giving you.

She says he is like a different kid now - happier, sleeps wayyyyyy better, doesn't need naps all the time. Recovery was not bad. She is glad she did it.


I had mine out at 25 and it was the worst surgery I've had and I've had a bunch (2 c-sections, tumor removal, knee)....by far the worst as an adult. After years and years of infected tonsils, being on antibiotics (becoming allergic to penicillin), I so wish I would have had them removed as a child. Good luck to you and your decision which is between you and your doctor.

This surgery is meant for young children. It's outpatient, easy, and usually has a quick recovery. They usually don't even remember it. I had when I was 4 and that was decades ago!!

My daughter just had them out last summer, she was 4. We had the same issues that you mentioned. The first 3-4 days after the surgery were hard but she did great. The sleep apnea has gone away, she doesn't snore anymore, she has much more restful sleep and she gets sick less often. The other consideration is their development due to the enlarged tonsils. One issue is the sleep apnea prevents them from getting the deep restful sleep they need and the other is that the roof of their mouth develops more concave when there is an airway obstruction. That may have a future consequence on their dental development and dental needs. I had a 6 year old who had them out as well. It was much smoother with the 4 year old. I wish you the best. It is a hard decision. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask....

Yes! you should have her tonsils out. I wish I would have insisted they do the same to my son when he was five. now he is fourteen, and hasn't had one good nights sleep yet, along with the cronic toncilitis every winter. Because of this same accident prone child. I also know that the younger the child the less likley they remember the surgery.

I had mine out at 18, too. It WAS horrible. There was a 3-year old in recovery with me. She cried and I attempted to comfort her in my semi-conscious state. As soon as she woke up all the way, she asked for toast.
The younger they are, the faster they recover. It sounds like a good solution for her, especially with sleep apnea.
Good luck!

Take them out. At her age she will most definately heal much faster than adults would. I had my tonsils out at 18 and while I never had issues with the tonsillectomy, I wish the doctors had recommended taking them out when I was younger. Mine were the size of golf balls (from the scar tissue from the chronic infections) when they were removed, and without fail, every time we went from winter to spring and fall into winter, I would get a flare up. I can honestly tell you, from my experience, the 18 years of chronic tonsillitis was far worse that the removal.
I would suggest taking her to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a third opinion, and ask about her adenoids as well. Those may be causing the snoring.
Good luck, but remember, YOU are the mom, only do it if you are absolutely 100% comfortable with the idea. However, she may end up developing a serious infection and the decision may be taken out of your hands.

My son is 4 1/2 and has had 2 surgeries in his life that required him to be put under.

The first one he was 10 months old and it was to get tubes put in his ears due to chronic infections - he was getting them every other week for 3-4 months before we had the surgery and he hasn't had one since.

The second one was just last November when he broke his arm at the elbow falling off a bench at a restaurant and needed 2 pins put in. He had the pins and cast for 3 weeks and can fully straighten his again.

The Children's Hospital in Denver is WONDERFUL and treated him (and us) great! Having you child have surgery is awful for the parents, but 99% of the time the kids don't really mind.

Good Luck

PS - kids heal a lot faster the younger they are. Leaving the surgery until she's older will just make her experience more like yours.

Hi A.

Dont wait get her the surgery. My son had his tonsils, adenoids and tubes put in at 10 months old. They heal so much better young and wont remember the pain like we do plus the benefits and health outweigh everything else. My sons tonsils and adenoids were huge as well the size of a nickel in a 10 month old and he had chronic ear infections and sleep apnea and now other then a minor cold he hasn't been sick in a long time. He is now over 2-1/2 and I wouldn't trade what I did for anything. Plus you can just prepare her a head of time since she is big enough to kind of understand and let her know it will be like a "ice-cream" vacation. Lots of popsicles and ice-cream and they love that, although my son still thinks he can have popsicles whenever he wants. Good luck ")

i would have to say she will be great, my now 12 year old had her's out right before her 2nd birthday. she had also had huge tonsils and sick all the time and had major ear problem's and thought that may help her with her ear infections. she had had 2 sets of tubes by then,although it didnt help the ear problem it did help her breathing and eating.my 10 yr old just had it done in august and i wish we would have done it when she was little.she didnt do as well as the oldest did when she was smaller, so i would have to say get it done while there young.

Hi, A..
I haven't had experience with my kids having this done so young, but my tonsils were removed at 4. I had recurring tonsilitis & mine would get huge like that & cause problems sleeping. I'd be on antibiotics for 10 days, then off for about 3 weeks & right back on them. According to my mom, I had no more problems after having them removed. I don't remember recovery being too painful. I just remember my mom taking care of me & eating lots of pudding, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, jello...things like that. Sometimes it is necessary...like in my case & what sounds like in your daughter's case. I know it's hard to think of putting your child under the knife, but it may help her (and you) in the long run to have a happier, healthier life.

Good luck with your decision.

My niece was 22 months old ahe was always having weird throat infections. They took her tonsils out and she is much healthier now. She is going to turn 4 soon.

I got my tonsils out at 16 and it was horrible. The recovery was weeks and weeks... On the other hand, my niece got hers out when she was 2 and she was back to normal in a couple of days. She never had any long term effects and hasn't had an ear infection or throat infection since and it has been 5.5 years. My friends little girl (who is 3) just got hers out and after a couple days was much better.

I had it done the week of my 3rd birthday. I remember very little of it. I had a ton going on, and actually had 4 procedures done while I was under, some preventatively. My health improved 1000%! I highly recommend it with all you're describing. The only part I remember is playing in the hospital bed after recovery. I'd double check that they don't think her adenoids are causing part of the problem in case you can do both at the same time. I hope it all goes well.

Yes, absolutely do the surgery, and make sure they remove the adnoids while they are doing it. I have had a 7 yr old, a 3 yr old and a 17 months old baby have their tonsils out. The baby was very difficult, but it was TOTALLY WORTH IT!!! She was getting strep throats too often, as were the other 2 children. The improvement in all of their health afterwards was remarkable. It was the best thing I ever did for them healthwise. Don't hesitate. Make sure they eat lots of protein afterwards, not just popsicles, as the protein helps them to heal much more quickly. Plan for a week on the couch, watching her favorite movies and shows, and have lots of her favorite foods there available for her to eat. It actually can be a relatively fun experience if you keep up with the pain medications, and encourage eating protein foods that are soft. I wish I had done the tonsillectomy on my other 2 children when they were young, also, as now they are men and need it done. Much worse at this older age. Do it now!

My son had this done at 3. He is 8 now and has not had strep throat or a sore throat for that matter since. He hasn't had an ear infection either. He was always sick with both of these!! He also had Sleep Apnea and the tonsillectomy helped that too. I was scared when they wheeled him away but recovery is a lot easier at a younger age. If I were you I would get it done. Most hospitals even have a class you can take your little one to that helps explain what they are going to do!

My daughter and I had our tonsils out one month apart, she was 4 and I was 28. She had 2 bad days and by the third day was begging to go to McDonalds, I still wasn't eating solids 2 weeks later. I think it is harder for us to see them laying there hurting than it really is for them. They start sleeping better and their health is so much improved.
Good Luck

Kids bounce back a lot faster than adults do. With her tonsils being that large and probably causing the sleep apnea which is dangerous i wouldnt hesitate getting them out. I've heard of a lot chilren younger than that getting adnoids and tonsils out due to being enlarged. My son had tubes put in his ears at 1 and you couldnt even tell he had them done that day he was just his normal happy self. Before you know it She will be eating and being her happy self.

We had the same issue with both of our children, and it helped them tremendously...I would do it again,and the younger the better. Good Luck!

My friend's son had his out at age 4. He did great. The pics of him coming out of the anesthesia are actually kind of funny. He sleeps so much better and hasn't had strep once since. He did just fine and was back to normal after about a week. I had mine out when I was 12 and I was out of school for 3 weeks. I haven't had a single strep throat since, either. It's SO much easier when they're younger! Her tonsils sound bad, and they need to come out. It's better for your child to just do it now so she can reap the benefits of sleeping better and not getting sick all the time. Good luck!

Do it! Both of my daughters (now 12 and 14) had their tonsils out young. The younger they are the quicker they heal and the easier it is on them. I have heard from several people I talk to that tonsilectomy's are like chicken pox...the younger the better as far as pain and healing.

My kids had their tonsils/adenoids out at ages 2 and 5. My two year old recovered much quicker than my 5 year old. It took 2-3 weeks before my 5 year old ate anything of substance and it was a MISERABLE 3 weeks for the whole family. But, once the recovery was over, they were different kids! They have not had an ear infection/tonsilitis since. It was terrible after the surgery but completely worth it! If your doctor is recommending it, I would definitely do it. Be prepared for some long days and sleepless nights, but hey, isn't that what motherhood is all about?! Good Luck!

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