Treatments to consider before opting for surgery

If your tonsils and adenoids aren’t causing serious health problems, there are alternatives to tonsillectomy (and adenoidectomy).

Here are some you can consider with your doctor:

  • Watchful waiting. Tonsils and adenoids usually get smaller as you get older. They’re at their maximum size when you’re 6 but by age 12 they’re usually much smaller. The important thing is the effect they’re having on your quality of life in the meantime.
  • Antibiotics can be used to treat tonsillitis if its bacterial, but many infections are caused by viruses (which don’t respond to antibiotics).
  • Nasal steroid sprays may help if the problem is mainly with inflammation in the adenoids. They’re not effective for enlarged tonsils.

Obstructive sleep apnoea

If your child’s tonsils and adenoids are obstructing their airway at night it can cause a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which can have knock-on effects for health and development. Surgery can be the best way forward, although it’s not always 100% effective and other risk factors are involved.

Adult OSA is more complex with multiple levels patients can obstruct. Only a few adults require tonsillectomy for sleep apnoea and most need more complex surgeries.

Why your doctor may recommend tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy

They may recommend surgery if you have one or more of the following:

  • 7 episodes of acute tonsillitis in the past year.
  • 5 episodes per year for 2 years.
  • 3 episodes per year for 3 years.
  • recurrent tonsil abscesses.
  • sleep apnoea (in children).

Results vs risks of surgery

The benefits and potential complications of tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.