Throat & Voice

Tonsillectomy: What Parents Should Know For Their Child

December 10, 2021
tonsillectomy what parents should know for their child

Tonsillitis (tonsil infection) is a common reason why many parents bring their children to see an ENT Specialist in Singapore. Symptoms typically include difficulty in swallowing, severe sore throat, a scratchy voice and fever that may last for more than 5 days.

Our tonsils help support the immune system by trapping viruses and bacteria as you swallow or breathe. This prevents them from entering the body through the nose and mouth and causing infections. The size of tonsils changes over time, and children are more susceptible to tonsillitis when the tonsils grow too large.

What is a tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils. Tonsils are two oval-shaped lumps of soft tissue located at the back part of the throat. The decision to undergo tonsillectomy should not be taken lightly as with all surgical procedures, there are risks involved. Sometimes, these tonsil troubles are treatable and can be outgrown when the child is older.

Why would one need a tonsillectomy?

The Child With Tonsillitis Looks Uncomfortable

There are usually two reasons why kids undergo a tonsillectomy.

  1. Their tonsils grow larger that they block the airways and make it difficult to breathe
  2. They get tonsillitis (tonsil infections) often 

Obstruction of airways

Due to gravity, the tonsils are brought down onto the airway, making it hard to breathe, especially during sleep. Breathing can also be stopped for short periods while asleep. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious condition that can lead to behavioural and health problems in children. Parents should listen for snoring and pauses in breathing – keep an ear out for choking noises followed by silence. OSA can make kids miss out on restful sleep which affects their learning, growth, and health. You should consult an ENT Specialist if your child exhibits some of the signs or symptoms of OSA.

Frequent infections

Recurrent tonsil infections can severely affect children with symptoms like fever, strep and enlarged lymph nodes. It is considered recurrent if they occur more than 7 times in a year, 5 times in 2 years consecutively, and 3 times a year for the past 3 years. Your doctor may recommend removing the tonsils to reduce the frequency and severity of getting tonsil infections.

The effects and risks of a tonsillectomy

Child Getting Throat Checked By ENT Specialist

Like any other medical procedure, there are some side effects and risks.

For starters, there is a risk of bleeding after the surgery that can be a cause of worry and discomfort for both the child and parents. Also, children can suffer dehydration since they tend to reduce fluid intake significantly during the recovery period.

Apart from the pain and discomfort during the post-surgery recovery period, you can expect a significant reduction in the frequency of infections. A parent’s support during the first few weeks after surgery is vital – give plenty of fluids, and soft, comforting foods such as pudding and ice cream that can be soothing.

Many studies have shown that surgical removal of the tonsils does not reduce one’s immunity. A Danish study published in 2018 showed an association between tonsillectomy in children (less than 9 years old) and the risk of higher lung infections in the future. However, this study does not prove that tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy caused a higher rate of lung infections in children.

Most medical experts have also observed that as the child is older the size of tonsils and the frequency of tonsil infections can also reduce. However, if your child’s tonsil is causing significant problems such as frequent tonsil infections which significantly impairs his or her quality of life or has signs or symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea, you may consider this surgical procedure. Bring your child down to an ENT clinic in Singapore and consult an ENT specialist to weigh the benefits and risks carefully before making a decision on tonsillectomy. Contact us to make an appointment.

Medically reviewed by Dr Gan Eng Cern

When Should You See an ENT Specialist in Singapore?

  • Any ear, nose or throat symptoms that you are troubled with or concerned about
  • Persistent blocked nose with mouth breathing or snoring

Dr Gan Eng Cern

Dr Gan Eng Cern is a distinguished ENT doctor with fellowship training. In addition to his clinical practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Singapore, Dr. Gan has contributed to the academic field as a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is recognised for his extensive research work, with numerous contributions to reputable international ENT journals. Dr Gan is also highly sought after as a speaker and has shared his surgical knowledge as a surgical dissection teacher at various prominent ENT conferences and courses.


  • 2020 – Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best ENT Specialist (Expat Living Singapore)
  • 2016 – Best Educator Award (Eastern Health Alliance)
  • 2016 – “Wow” Award (Patient Compliment)
  • 2014 – Eastern Health Alliance Caring Award – Silver
  • 2014 – 19th Yahya Cohen Memorial Lectureship (awarded by the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine Singapore for best scientific surgical paper)
  • 2012 – Human Manpower Development Award (Ministry of Health, Singapore)
  • 2007 – Singhealth Best Doctor Award


  • MBBS – Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
  • MRCS (Edin) – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • MMed (ORL) – Master of Medicine in ENT (National University of Singapore)
  • FAMS – Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

Why Choose Dr Gan Eng Cern


Reliable & Reputable ENT Expert

Experienced and patient ENT Specialist who has your best interests at heart. We aim to provide you with accessible and specialized care for any ENT condition in a comfortable setting.


Friendly & Helpful Clinic Staff

Our friendly staff will assist you to the best of our ability and we are happy to accept most insurance providers and assist with E-filing with relevant insurance providers or Medisave.


Advanced ENT Equipment & Fully Equipped Facility

Our ENT Specialist, Dr Gan Eng Cern, will be able to diagnose and offer personalised treatments for your specific ENT condition. You can expect a high level of ENT care in a spacious setting with in-house minor surgical, endoscopy, allergy testing and microscopy services.


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There are various financial options available for you to ensure that you are able to receive the most optimal treatment and care. Our ENT clinic staff will be able to assist you with your medical insurance claims and work with your chosen healthcare organization to minimize the hassle and paperwork required. In some cases, you may be able to utilise the funds in your Medisave account to defray part of the costs of your treatment. As our clinic is accredited by the Medisave board, we are able to process your claims from your Medisave for certain clinic procedures.

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