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Recurring strep throat: When is tonsillectomy useful?

If a child is diagnosed with strep throat seven or more times in one year, his or her doctor might suggest surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy).

A diagnosis of strep throat requires a positive strep throat screening test. The following criteria help determine when to have a strep test:

  • Oral temperature of at least 101 F (38.3 C)
  • Enlarged and tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • White spots on the tonsils

Children can still get strep throat after having their tonsils removed. But for some children with recurring strep throat, tonsillectomy reduces the frequency and severity of strep throat infections.

However, many children stop having recurring strep throat as they get older. The decision to remove a child's tonsils must be weighed against the risks of anesthesia and bleeding, as well as the missed school days to recover from the procedure.

Tonsillectomy is an elective surgery except in three situations, all of which are relatively rare: cancer of the tonsils, bleeding of the tonsils and airway obstruction by the tonsils.

Last updated: July 21st, 2017

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