Healthy Living

Strep Throat: Should I Get My Tonsils Removed?

Strep Throat: Should I Get My Tonsils Removed?

Key Takeaways

  • Strep throat is an infection that affects the throat and is caused by bacteria known as streptococcus pyogenes.
  • Removal of the tonsils does not prevent you from getting strep throat again.
  • Aside from surgical removal of the tonsils, strep throat can be cured using antibiotics.

Considering the removal of your tonsils, based on the recurrence of strep throat infections, should be discussed with your doctor to determine if you should have the procedure.

Can I Still Get Strep After Having My Tonsils Removed?

Strep throat is an infection that affects the throat and is caused by bacteria known as streptococcus pyogenes. Strep throat causes pain and inflammation in the throat region. It mostly affects children but it can also affect adults too. The strep throat infection can spread due to coughing and sneezing. One of the most frequently asked questions about this medical condition is, “can I get strep throat even after my tonsils are removed?”

The correct answer is, yes you can. Removal of the tonsils only lowers your chances of getting the condition but it does not make you a hundred percent free from it.

Should I Have My Child's Tonsils Removed?

Parents often get sick and tired of watching their children get recurrent strep throat infections and this inclines them to decide to have their tonsils removed. Some of the reasons why you may want to let your child keep his/her tonsils may include the following:

  1. As kids grow up, they tend to have a decrease in the infections affecting them. Therefore, it is possible that your child may also stop getting strep throat with time as they grow up. So, give them time to mature and wait to see if things improve.
  2. Tonsils also have a role to play in the body. They help in fighting infections with the help of M cells that are lined in them. In addition, they may also prevent harmful particles from getting into the body.
  3. As mentioned earlier, removal of the tonsils does not prevent you from getting strep throat again. This means that your child may still get infected even after they are removed.
  4. Removal of the tonsils is also done surgically and this means that there are risks involved as it is in every surgical procedure. There may be complications such as pain or bleeding. Other kids also experience vomiting or nausea in severe cases. This may lead to hospital readmission. Ensure you discuss the risks involved with a qualified surgeon before the procedure.

What Is a Tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils. There are cases where this procedure may have to be done. For kids, tonsillectomy may give them a grace period of up to two years before strep throat attacks again when compared to kids who have not had their tonsils removed. Adults, on the other hand, rarely get infected again after the procedure.

In carrying out the procedure, a general anesthetic may be used for children and a local anesthetic for adults. Patients usually experience a sore throat for a few days after the surgery. They may also have bad breath or have the inability to eat or drink affected for a while.

Reasons Why the Tonsillectomy Procedure Is Done

There are a number of reasons why this surgical procedure may have to be undertaken.

When a person has repeated cases of strep throat infections, especially more than six times a year, and it is extremely severe and the antibiotics do not seem to work. However, for it to be considered severe it must satisfy at least one of the following conditions:

  1. It has caused formation of white spots over the tonsils.
  2. The oral temperature is at least thirty-eight degrees Celsius.
  3. The test for strep throat gives positive results.
  4. The lymph nodes in the neck are enlarged and swollen.
  5. When the tonsils are large and, thus, affect the breathing of a child, especially at night. This is known as sleep apnea.
  6. Due to repeated episodes of tonsillitis.

Tips for Dealing with Strep Throat

First, make sure that the condition is really a strep throat infection. Do not just use drugs that you think will cure your child. The strep throat infection is known to develop typically within five days once the person is exposed to the infection. Strep throat has symptoms such as:

  • A severe sore throat
  • Fever
  • Experiencing pain during swallowing
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • You may also experience headache
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

Visit to the doctor –

One should note that not all sore throats would mean that the person is suffering from strep throat infection. There can be other medical reasons or illnesses which can lead to sore throat. These would include:

  • Sinus infection
  • Cold
  • Acid reflux
  • Postnasal drip

If the sore throat is caused by other medical reasons, then it would usually improve or heal on its own within few days. It may or may not require any treatment. One should immediately call the doctor if they experience any of the below:

  • Finding it difficult to breathe
  • If the sore throat lasts longer than two days
  • One finding it difficult to swallow
  • Sore throat along with white patches or sandpaper like pink rashes on the skin
  • There are dark, red spots on the tonsils or on the top of the mouth

How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

Visit a doctor to get checked and have a diagnosis. This is done through physical examination, strep throat tests, and questions about your symptoms and health history will be analyzed.

There are two types of tests that can be done to determine if you have strep throat. These include the rapid strep test and the throat culture. A rapid strep test takes ten minutes to process the results. However, it may not always show the presence of strep.

In this test the doctor would swab the back of the throat by using a long cotton swab and collect the required sample. This sample would then be sent to the laboratory to check for any signs of bacteria or any other germs. Results would not take much of the time. If the rapid strep test turns out to be negative but the doctor still doubts about the presence of strep throat, then the sample would be sent to an outside lab for an additional testing. In this case the result would be available within few days.

Throat culture takes a longer amount time, around a day or two, but it is more efficient. It can detect all kinds of strep. If the rapid strep test shows that you have the infection, there is no need to carry out the throat culture test.

The doctor would also check your neck to ensure there is no swelling in the lymph nodes and would also ask for any other symptoms.

Treatment of Strep Throat Infection

Aside from surgical removal of the tonsils, strep throat can be cured using antibiotics. Antibiotics not only heal the patient, but they also make them less contagious. This lowers the risks of spreading it to others.

There are several types of antibiotics available for treating the infection. Penicillin and amoxicillin are two of the most common medications which are usually given to a patient suffering from strep throat infection. To kill the infection completely one should note to complete the full course of antibiotic treatment, it should not be left half way. There have been cases wherein people have stopped taking in the medication once the symptoms improve which again triggers the recurrence of the infection. In such cases the symptoms can return back.

A patient may be contagious for weeks even after the symptoms go away if they are not taking antibiotics. A doctor may also prescribe over-the-counter medication to help reduce fever and help with the pain. Ensure you take all your medications as instructed by the doctor. Avoid skipping doses or taking them at the wrong time. You can set alarms to remind you or keep simple time tables or charts.

Get a new toothbrush as you get through half of your medication. Toothbrushes have the potential to carry the bacteria and this may infect you again later. So, rid yourself of the old one and buy a new one. Maintain proper hygiene at all times. This can be done by washing your hands before a meal, using throw away tissues instead of handkerchiefs, and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

Finally, strep throat is an infection that is easily communicable from one person to another. Therefore, avoid contact with people who are infected. If you are around them, wash your hands frequently, since the bacteria can live on surfaces touched by them, such as doorknobs. Do not share utensils with them or other personal items, such as toothbrushes. It is also important to note that affected people stop being contagious twenty-four hours after they start using antibiotics. Patients can also stay home away from school or work to avoid transmitting the disease to others.

Surgery: If a person faces recurrent bouts of strep throat infection then you and your doctor would decide to go in for surgery for removal of the tonsils which is also called as tonsillectomy. Surgery can be considered when:

  • The strep throat becomes recurrent in a single year even after taking in antibiotic treatment.
  • Presence of abscesses around the tonsils which do not respond to drainage or if there is presence of abscess in addition to other signs then there would be a need to go for tonsillectomy.
  • One comes across persistent bad odor or taste in the mouth which is caused by tonsillitis and doesn’t respond to treatment.
  • If there is a suspected tumor, then biopsy would be conducted to determine the same.

Tonsillectomy would not be required if there is an indication of a large tonsil unless it causes one of the above problems or it tends to block the upper airways which leads to sleep apnea or trouble in eating.

Home treatment for Strep Throat

Apart from medications and person hygiene one can also go in for the below home care treatments;

  • Turn on the cool-mist humidifier in the room
  • Drink warm liquids such as tea or lemon water
  • To numb the throat one can drink cold liquid but in limited quantity
  • Sucking on throat lozenges
  • To get relief from pain or inflammation, one can go in for ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Salt gargle is one of the best treatment. Add half teaspoon of salt into one cup of water, mix it well and gargle it. This should be done at least three to four times in a day.

Home remedies for Strep Throat

One can also go in for the below home remedies which would help to cure strep throat infection:

Vitamin C: To boost the immunity system, vitamin C is very useful. It repairs the damaged tissue in the throat and also decreases the risk of wide range of other medical conditions. One can go in for vitamin C supplements, else go in for fruits or veggies which are loaded with vitamin C. consume fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi or kale. If you find it trouble in swallowing, then drink it by preparing a smoothie.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in building the immune system due to its antimicrobial defenses.

Echinacea: Echinacea has a lot of benefits which includes its ability to work as an immune-enhancing herb. This helps to stop the spreading of the bacterial conditions which could cause strep throat. Echinacea is also used to relieve pain which is caused due to strep throat, other symptoms such as headache, sore throat and body aches. Echinacea is known to contain anti-inflammatory effects that help to reduce swelling caused in throat or tonsils.

Foods to eat or drink during the infection: One can consume raw honey, herbal tea, bone broth or apple cider vinegar during the infection period. Each of these items has its own beneficial properties which help to heal strep throat naturally and also ease the pain and treat the inflammation caused due to the infection.

Risks and complications of strep throat –

If one starts timely medication for strep throat, then the symptoms would show improvement within a week’s time. But if it is not treated on time then it can lead to serious complications such as:

  • Infection of the ear
  • Rheumatic fever which affects the joints, skin and heart. It is an inflammatory disease.
  • Scarlet fever which mostly occurs due to toxins created by strep throat infection which lead to scarlet colored rash on different parts of the body.
  • Sinusitis
  • Guttate psoriasis which is a medical condition in which there are small, red teardrop shaped spots which appear on the body.
  • Mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone present in the skull
  • Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis which is also known as the inflammation of the kidneys
  • Peritonsilar abscess is an infection which develops in the back of the tonsils and it is filled with pus.

The Bottom Line

Strep throat is a medical condition that reduces with time as children grow up. Getting your tonsils removed may not be necessary but if the disease keeps recurring and does not seem to respond to antibiotics, it should be considered.

Infected people should maintain high standards of hygiene and so should the people around them. Do not try to treat yourself if symptoms show; see a doctor for diagnosis. Lastly, be patient. Wait for your child to grow up and see if the condition declines with time and always be vigilant to ascertain that their health is in good standing.