• Question: Why do we have tonsils?

    Asked by shanman to Karen, Shane on 22 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Shane Mc Guinness

      Shane Mc Guinness answered on 22 Nov 2013:

      Hi Shanman,
      well, that’s a good question.
      As you probably know, your tonsils are at the back of our throats, one to each side.
      Though most people think they’re useless, they do actually have a job.
      They contain a type of tissue called lymphatic tissue. This is part of our immune system and protects us against any harmful things we might eat or swallow.
      However, in a lot of people (me included!) they swell up a a lot more than they should. And this can get in the way of our eating and breathing.
      So a lot of people get them taken out. The great thing about the human body is that we can survive many changes just fine. And the same is the case with removing the tonsils. Our body can deal just fine with them not being there.
      Though there are some parts of our body that don’t really have a use (like our appendix) tonsils do have a use. But we can survive just fine without them, and if they swell up too much it’s usually better to just take them out and get it over with!
      And, you get to eat LOADS of ice-cream when you do get them out. Cool.

    • Photo: Karen McCarthy

      Karen McCarthy answered on 22 Nov 2013:

      As Shane said, your tonsils are a troublesome duo in the body. Whilst they help ward off infection and illness, once they them selves become infected, it can be very painful and cause more problems than they solve!

      As you age from baby to toddler, your tonsils get bigger – as you become exposed to more germs and nasty bugs. Once you reach ages 8-10, they begin to shrink again, as your whole immune system becomes more capable of protecting you.

      Tonsillectomy is the tricky word describing the process of having your tonsils surgically removed – and the very first report of this was actually by a Roman surgeon in 30 AD!