Michelle De Vries, of Ilam School, asks :-

Why do some people have to have their tonsils out?

Jane Batchelor, a Christchurch doctor, responded.

If you open your mouth wide while looking in a mirror your tonsils look a bit like a pale pink raspberry on each side behind your back teeth. They are responsible for fighting infection and also act as little rubbish bags and waste disposal units for all the waste products from this fighting process.

Mostly tonsils are helpful to our health and now that medical scientists know more about tonsils fewer people have them taken out than was the case in the past.

Tonsils are very small when we are born and gradually get larger until the age of five or six after which they gradually get smaller until at the age of 10 when they rapidly get smaller.

When children pick up infections, particularly when they start school and are exposed to a lot of different infections from other children, their tonsils have to work very hard, becoming swollen, redder than usual and sore. They may have white spots or pus on them. This is called tonsillitis. At such times it is difficult to swallow food, especially scratchy foods like toast. This is not very pleasant but luckily within a few days they start to feel better and their tonsils shrink back to normal size.

Sometimes an unlucky person will have tonsillitis many times in one year and need to stay home and miss a lot of school. They may also lose weight because they do not find it easy to swallow. If these two things happen then it may be helpful to have the tonsils removed.