After that I had several similar infections, one after the other.

Photo of doctor and patient (IuriiSokolov / iStock / Thinkstock)

Tanya, 38 years old:

“My symptoms were very severe: I had a real lump in my throat, was running a high fever, had difficulties swallowing, and felt weighed-down and exhausted. I was so weak that I had to stay in bed, which hardly ever happens.”

When my children were two and four years old I got tonsillitis for the first time in my adult life. My daughter had probably brought streptococcus bacteria home from kindergarten.

My symptoms were very severe: I had a real lump in my throat, was running a high fever, had difficulties swallowing, and felt weighed-down and exhausted. I was so weak that I had to stay in bed, which hardly ever happens. I was really sick and I realized that I had to see a doctor. I could also see in the mirror that my tonsils were a yellowish color and thought I might have bacterial tonsillitis.

Prescription for antibiotics

My doctor prescribed an antibiotic and I took it regularly and as directed. I really don’t like antibiotics at all and I try to avoid them whenever I can. But I didn’t want to take any chances with streptococcus bacteria. I didn’t have any side effects, though, and the tablets agreed with me. I also gargled with sage tea and drank a lot of tea.

My kids were still very young so I couldn’t just stay in bed

After I stopped using the antibiotic after the prescribed time, I had fever again as well as the other symptoms I had had before, but they weren’t as severe this time. It dawned on me that I had developed tonsillitis again. Back then my children were still quite young and I was taking care of them at home. I couldn't just stay in bed and rest.

After that I had several similar infections, one after the other. About four years ago I got tired of it and asked my ENT specialist if I could get my tonsils removed.

I found out about the pros and cons of surgery

Before making the decision, I looked around for information and read that surgery to remove the tonsils isn't as common as it used to be because of the risk of bleeding after surgery. The tonsils are removed under general anesthetic and that also involves a certain level of risk. You’ve really got to think it through beforehand. But I knew things couldn't carry on as they were and I was no longer able to get through my daily responsibilities being sick all the time. I felt desperate every time I woke up with a fever. I was at my wit’s end.

I had already had infections as a child

I assume that I had already had tonsillitis as a child, but I don’t really know for sure.  My ENT doctor told me that I must have had several infections as a child, just based on the condition my tonsils were in. My mother couldn’t really remember very well; she just said that I was often ill when I was younger. I don’t know any more myself. But by the time I was a teenager I didn’t have any more trouble with it. It wasn’t until my children brought home the germs from kindergarten that it started up again.

Because my tonsils already had fissures, it was easier for the germs to settle in them, I guess. I was also worried that having so many strep infections could lead to dangerous complications later on, like inflammation of the heart muscle.

I had my tonsils removed in hospital

My doctor agreed that having a tonsillectomy was the right thing to do, so surgery was scheduled and my tonsils were removed in the hospital. Before surgery, I received an information sheet at the hospital, explaining what I was to do after the operation. For example, it said that I wasn’t supposed to lift heavy objects and that I should continue to eat the same diet as before surgery. That was very important to keep the wounds from scabbing. And it also said I would be given painkillers. Then I was put under general anesthetic and had my tonsils removed.

Surgery went well

It was the first time I ever had a general anesthetic. Everything went well. After surgery I felt sick and had to throw up, but it wasn’t too bad. They gave me medicine against nausea and I felt better right away. I spent a total of six days in the hospital.

During my week-long stay in the hospital I felt quite well. I ate a lot despite the pain. I took painkillers, but it still hurt. Looking back, I think I should have asked for more painkillers. Maybe the dose wasn’t quite right. But nobody asked me if I was in any pain. I should have spoken up. While I was in the hospital I took a lot of walks and I read quite a bit. I have to say that I actually quite enjoyed my time there.

The first few days back at home were difficult

Then I was discharged from the hospital. If you have young children and aren’t able to get bed rest, I can only recommend having someone else take care of the kids for the first two to three days. After a few days, the scabs in my throat started coming off and that was extremely unpleasant. I had very, very severe and unpleasant pain for two to three days. It was like a stabbing pain. When I swallowed, it felt as if a tiny knife were stabbing or pressing into the back of my throat. It was like the pain I knew from tonsillitis, but a lot worse, and it was especially bad when I swallowed.

That was really bad and I still had to take care of my children at the same time. Plus we had handymen working in our house and it was all just too much for me. Saliva kept collecting in my mouth, and eating wasn’t nearly as easy as it had been in the hospital. But things improved a lot after about three days.

It got better again in the second week I was back home. There was no bleeding or any other complications. One of the wound surfaces became a bit inflamed, but then it healed well. I felt like I had fully recovered from everything after about three weeks.

It was the right decision for me

Looking back, I’m really glad I had my tonsils out. I don't get ill that often anymore. I no longer have a sore throat and I almost never have a cold. I’d do it all again, in spite of the pain. It was absolutely the right thing for me to do.

Of course, you should really think it over before having surgery like that. There are risks, like bleeding afterwards. But I told myself that an adult would notice if they were bleeding at the back of their throat. Then I’d have gone to the hospital and they’d have sealed it off. That made me feel it was a calculated risk I was taking.

It’s a little different with kids

If we had to make the same decision for one of our children, I would really have a good think about whether the surgery was absolutely necessary. If children have bleeding after surgery they might swallow the blood and not say anything. You often don’t notice the bleeding until they vomit. But by then they could have lost large amounts of blood, which can be life-threatening. You need to weigh the factors differently than you do for adults. And you have to remember that tonsillectomy is real surgery. It involves a general anesthetic and the risks that are associated with that, just like in any other surgical procedure.

I really read a lot of information on the internet about this procedure beforehand. I think it’s really important to be well informed. Of course you should consult a doctor as well, but the consultations I had were brief. I believe that it’s essential to be informed so that you know what to expect. Especially as far as the pain is concerned. It was important to me to know that pain following surgery is completely normal. And that you should ask for pain relief. If you have this knowledge you can go to the hospital with a very different level of self-confidence. I think that's extremely important.

Acknowledgment

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

Labels: Child and family health, Immune system and infections, J02, J03, J04, J35, Quinsy, Tonsillitis