Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:23 AM MDT
Good Question: What Do Tonsils Do?
(KUTV) Matt Koma has been tonsil-less for the better part of his life. His used to interfere with his breathing.
"Doctors told me if I had my tonsils out it would help with that," Koma said.
He recalls it was a painful experience, describing the pain as a really sore throat. Years later, fully recovered from the surgery, Koma says he does not miss his tonsils. Why would he miss them? He says he has never knew that they served a purpose.
They do, says S.R. Newman, an Otolaryngologist for Intermountain Medical Center.
"Tonsils have a specific role in the development of your immune system," he said.
Tonsils sit on either side of the throat near the back of our mouths catch bad things that we breathe and eat, Newman says. The tonsils then learn from what is caught, using that information to teach our bodies how to fight infections.
"[Tonsils] help in basically programming some of the cells on how they should work," he said.
It's an important function. So then how are so many people able to live perfectly normal lives without their tonsils?
"Studies suggest that for the first two years of life [tonsils] are critical for that role," Newman says. "After that, they play a less significant role."
Newman cautions that there is no need to fret if a doctor tells you that you need to have your tonsils out. There are other things in our bodies that can teach out immune system about infections. The tonsils are merely that first line of defense.
Editor Note: If you have a Good Question for Matt Gephardt, email him at Gephardt@kutv.tv or call (801) 839-1250. He answers Good Questions from viewers each Friday.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)