New research suggests that removing children’s tonsils could increase their risk of contracting diseases and infections such as asthma and pneumonia for decades afterward.
Sean Byars, lead researcher of the study, which was published in JAMA Otolaryngology, said, “We found that long-term risks of diseases — in particular respiratory, allergic and infectious diseases — were substantially increased after surgery up to 30 years of age.”
Because of the increased risks, researchers concluded that parents should take a child’s long-term health into consideration prior to having their tonsils and adenoids removed.
“Our study tends to suggest that, when possible, it might be better for long-term health to avoid these surgeries in childhood,” said Byars, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
In order to reach their conclusions, researchers analyzed Danish health records, following more than 60,000 children who had their tonsils removed, adenoids removed or both prior to age 10. They then compared the medical records with data on 1.2 million other children born between 1979 and 1999.
When assessing the conditions purportedly treated by the removal of tonsils and adenoids, researchers encountered mixed long-term results.
Byars noted that tonsillitis and sleep disorders were greatly reduced, but other issues, such as sinusitis, increased in patients up to age 30. A two- to three-times increase in diseases of the upper respiratory tract was also found, while a smaller risk was documented for infections and allergic diseases.
According to WebMD, “Tonsils are two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth. Tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system and are often removed in childhood to treat chronic ear infections and obstructed breathing. But removal often occurs at ages when immune system development is sensitive.”
Byars acknowledged that avoiding the removal of tonsils and adenoids is not always feasible, acknowledging that employing caution “is not possible when conditions these surgeries treat are chronic or recurrent.”