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.

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