March 14, 2020

Does a Chronic Sore Throat Have You Missing Work?

It might be time to get your tonsils checked

Man with sore throat

Only kids have their tonsils taken out, right? Think again. Many adults do in fact have tonsillectomies, and research shows they’re relatively safe.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A tonsillectomy is removal of the tonsils when they cause difficulty breathing during sleep or recurring throat infections.

Experts say if you’re missing work for days at a time because of your throat, you should have your tonsils checked.

When do tonsils need to be removed?

According to Michael S. Benninger, MD, Chairman of the Head & Neck Institute, if you have mild pain and miss a day of work a few times each year, you probably don’t need to have your tonsils removed.

However, if you get really sick a few times each year — sick to the point that you can’t swallow, and miss 7 to 10 days of work each time — then surgery may make sense for you.

“When I decide whether or not to recommend surgery, I base that decision on intensity of symptoms, frequency of symptoms and their impact on daily life,” he says.

Tonsil surgery for adults

A recent study of nearly 6,000 adults who had tonsillectomies found low complication and death rates that were similar to those of children. However, researchers also found that the reoperation rate in adults was 3.2%, usually for post-surgical bleeding — slightly higher than rates for children.

This may be because a tonsillectomy is a more complex procedure that causes more pain and bleeding in adults.

Advertisement

To understand why, you can start by understanding the structure of a tonsil. “In kids, the tonsils sit mostly in the throat,” Dr. Benninger explains. “With adults, they’ve become recessed into tissue and are harder to access.”

Also, with repeated infections, there is more scarring, which makes the tonsils more difficult to remove. Adults prone to tonsil inflammation tend to have had many more years of infections than children.

Tonsillectomy recovery for adults: How long will it take?

“I tell adults to expect soreness for a week,” Dr. Benninger says. “It’s not a fun operation, and people can experience more pain than they expected.”

Adults may feel like they don’t want to eat much for 7 to 10 days, while a child may want to eat a hamburger on the day of surgery.

The most common complication after surgery is bleeding or dehydration due to discomfort.

Future research

Now, researchers are focusing on preventing infections after operations in high-risk patients. Doing so could also help reduce the need for reoperation.

Advertisement

“I want to see what we can do to reduce postoperative bleeding and lessen pain,” Dr. Benninger says.

At one time, researchers thought antibiotics could dampen pain, but later studies did not prove this was useful. Researches have also tried various coating solutions.

“However, no techniques have yet been found that are foolproof — and these solutions will be the golden ticket,” Dr. Benninger says.

Related Articles

fire cider in a mason jar
February 7, 2024
Fire Cider: What Is It? And Can It Prevent Illness?

This spicy concoction can do more harm than good, upsetting your stomach and causing painful acid reflux

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
January 19, 2024
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

female with fingers pressing on bridge of nose in distress
January 4, 2024
Got a Sinus Infection That Won’t Quit? When To Worry

Give it seven to 10 days, but if your symptoms linger or get worse, it’s time to see a healthcare provider

Someone uses a wall-mounted jet dryer to dry their hands.
November 14, 2023
The Dirty Truth About Hand Dryers

Some dryers spread germs instead of removing them

Overhead view of a person holding hot tea and flu medications.
October 10, 2023
When Flu Season Officially Starts

While it typically starts in October, vaccine effectiveness can affect its duration and severity

Closeup of person getting a flu shot.
October 8, 2023
6 Tips To Prep for Flu Season

Get vaccinated, consider wearing a mask and stock your medicine cabinet

Woman with protective face mask huddling on floor while flu spores float around in the air.
October 4, 2023
Here’s How Dangerous the Flu Can Be

Influenza puts stress on your body and can lead to serious conditions like pneumonia or stroke

Masked person receiving vaccine shot in their shoulder
October 2, 2023
Why You Need a Flu Shot (and When To Get It)

Prevention is best against this serious illness

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad