Before I go under the knife, maybe I could go under the salt water gargles?
January 3, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

What did you do without removing your tonsils that helped reduce the frequency of your bouts of tonsillitis?

I have large, craggy tonsils and I tend to get tonsillitis a few times every year. For personal reasons I'm not interested in having them removed, and am not interested in anecdata or real data about removing tonsils -- I'm well aware of the many great outcomes of tonsillectomy for adults.

I am, however, very proactive about my health in other areas and am ready to commit myself to new habits to reduce as much as possible the likelihood of getting tonsillitis again. Some background about me and what I already do:

- I'm a woman in my mid-20s
- I'm a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly
- I sleep eight hours per night
- I don't drink or smoke
- I get occasional tonsiloliths, and manually extract them when necessary (when they're big/gross/visible/etc)

So, what have you done, besides tonsillectomy, that helped you have fewer bouts of tonsillitis?
posted by telegraph to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing helped my recurrent tonsillitis (once every 2-3 months for about 2 yrs) except a doctor who was willing to write an antibiotic RXs every time they flared up. Hydrogen peroxide gargles sometimes took the edge off the pain and rawness for an hour or two, and regular ibuprofen/naproxen sodium doses took the swelling down a bit.

I did eventually have my tonsils out and haven't had throat concerns since. I know you specifically don't want discussion of that here, but I feel the need to say it in the interest of full disclosure. But, yeah, before that I just got comfortable with taking A LOT of antibiotics.
posted by superfluousm at 7:21 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have heard cutting out dairy helps. My nephew had bad tonsillitis/adenoids (so bad it hurt his hearing and speech development was being delayed) and while waiting until he was old enough to have surgery his family cut out on his dairy and gluten. It was more as a long shot and annecdotally they reckon it helped cut down on the severity of the instances.
posted by wwax at 7:22 AM on January 3, 2012

I'm in the same boat as you, but when my doctor sent me to an ENT, the ENT concluded that it wasn't necessary and so the surgery would be cosmetic and I'd have to pay out of pocket. Needless to say, I'm not getting them out. My doctor pretty much suggested that I gargle a lot after eating to make sure that food and other things don't get trapped back there.
posted by synecdoche at 7:41 AM on January 3, 2012

Treating my allergies made all of my sinus/tonsil stuff go away.
posted by cooker girl at 7:45 AM on January 3, 2012

I get it fairly often too. I have found reasonably reliable success by, at the first twinge of throat pain, gargling with half a glass of hot-ish water with as much salt dissolved in it as you can bear, plus 3-6 drops (again, up to your tolerance, it's quite potent!) of tea tree oil.

I believe it works because the salt and oil are disinfectants, and the heat of the water is inhospitable to bacteria. It's not great, but it's not as bad as you'd expect!
posted by greenish at 8:04 AM on January 3, 2012

Flushing them out with a Water Pic has changed my life! Whenever I feel them, I flush them. It's much easier than manual extraction. I highly recommend buying one.
posted by katypickle at 8:18 AM on January 3, 2012

My wife'n'youngest get tonsil stones. Gargling and Water Pik and regulating dairy helps control them.
posted by zomg at 8:44 AM on January 3, 2012

Rinsing off my tonsils / back of my throat with sterile isotonic saline 2x-4x a day. This was recommended to me after an astonishing bout of necrotic tonsillitis that had my tonsils and the back of my throat turning grey and black, it was SO painful. I'm a classical singer, and a tonsillectomy impacts the vocal instrument in a very major way, so I've been really unwilling to do any surgery. I've been working with a specialist ENT who works with singers, and he recommended the saline rinse. I use Simply Saline, which has the bonus of being sterile through pressurization instead of preservatives.
posted by KathrynT at 9:48 AM on January 3, 2012

Moving out of my parents home. Seriously, they were both chain smokers and I was at the doc weekly on every medicine possible. The last "resort" was a lovely 6 month treatment of gamma globulin and then ceftin (when ceftin was the 'new' drug).

Making sure you don't have sinus issues will also help.

Other than that, docs now just say salt water and ride it out. I get my z pack or amox occassionally but other than that I"m good.
posted by stormpooper at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2012

Explore your tonsils with a bright light, a mirror, and something long, thin, not sharp, and reasonably sterile. If you use a q-tip you won't die. After a little bit of effort to get the lay of the land, I found a massive crypt in one tonsil and a two massive crypts in the other. Like, deep, man.

So for a while I stuck a squeeze bulb in each crypt and washed them out, almost every day. It was just tap water, but but I hydrogen peroxided the bulb every day, too.

I got bored with that eventually, but I haven't had many problems since then. Stone production is much, much, much slower. When I drink milk, my tonsils swell up, but that seems to be a different issue.
posted by zeek321 at 10:32 AM on January 3, 2012

I used to get tonsillitis about 4-6 times a year.

At some point I started gargling as soon as I felt the slightest itch in the back of my throat. I haven't had tonsillitis for almost 20 years.

I gargle either using salt water or Listerine. I prefer blue Listerine because the color makes it more obvious when I've brought up phlegm from the back of my throat. I take a swig, gargle for a full 10 seconds and spit. Repeat 5 times. Or more if I'm still brining up phlegm. I do it when I wake up and just before bed, and possibly more times during the day, depending on how I'm feeling.

But it's not part of my regular hygiene routine, I just do it when I feel the telltale scratch.

(You can also use hydrogen peroxide, but I hate the taste of it.)
posted by Ookseer at 11:06 AM on January 3, 2012

Definitely seconding the allergies. When I:

1) started getting allergy shots,
2) went on daily Flonase/Nasonex/whatever brand of nasal steroid spray does it for you and used it faithfully every day,
3) went on daily generic Claritin and used it faithfully every day (but again, whatever works for you - Zyrtec is useless for me, but may be the one you react best to), and
4) when needed, used a neti pot and artificial tears to wash out pollen/mucus

my 1x/mo tonsilitis/sinus infections were cut to about 1x/yr.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2012

Do you have allergies? The post nasal drip is what triggers my tonsilitis 90% of the time. You might have rather mild allergies that don't really bother you, but stil cause mucous and whatnot to drip on your tonsils at night.

I find taking sudafed whenever I can feel it coming on helps. Regular use of a neti pot also helps me.
posted by whoaali at 11:35 AM on January 3, 2012

I had tonsillitis all the time as a child/teen (4+ times a year). The only thing that helped was antibiotics. I was supposed to have my tonsils out as a child, but they discovered I had a bleeding disorder and cancelled the surgery.
I had fewer cases in university/grad school, and I can't remember the last time I had it.

What helped me was getting my allergies under control, and moving out into a smoke and pet free environment. I take two prescription allergy meds, plus zyrtec and benadryl as needed, and that has helped tremendously. Plus, not living with two multiple pack a day smokers.
posted by bryghtrose at 11:45 AM on January 3, 2012

Depends if its viral, bacterial, or allergy. Bacterial; you need antibiotics. Viral; salt water, diluted apple cider vinegar, or other mouth washes(Listerine,etc. I prefer Crest Pro-White because of the hydrogen peroxide) Allergy; antihistamines and mouth washes. These have all worked for me in each instance.
posted by PJMoore at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2012

Thanks for all the great answers so far, please keep them coming!

Just to clarify, I am looking for information about preventing tonsillitis, not treating it when it pops up.
posted by telegraph at 12:51 PM on January 3, 2012

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