Articles, Blog

Do You Really Need Your Tonsils?

October 10, 2019


Pop Quiz Hotshot! What body parts can you
cut out and the only side effects are you get to eat ice cream for a week? We all know
what they are, but what do
they do? Happy Monday! What are tonsils for? Seriously.
When I was a kid, it seemed like everyone was getting their tonsils out, but talking
about it here at the office, we could have sworn no one does that anymore. Luckily for
us, SSDragon19 asked us to do a video about tonsils; and every Monday we like to answer
one of YOUR questions! Because, y’all are great and stuff. If you open your mouth wide and look in the
back — you’ll see two palatine tonsils are tucked up in the back on the top right and
left sides behind the hanging thing — that’s called the uvula by the way. Those two palatine
tonsils are part of a defensive barrier called the Waldeyer ring which protects the largest
gaping entrance for bacterial and viral infections to your body — your ears, nose and throat.
You’ve got those two, plus two adenoids at the back of the nasal cavity, a single lingual
tonsil down your throat on the tongue; and a few others. This Waldeyer ring of tonsils
and adenoids are an important part of the lymphatic system. Which (among other things)
produces and moves white blood cells and bacteria-eating lymphocytes around the body to defend it. Tonsils hold B-cells; which are like scouts
for the immune system — they look for bacterial invaders, and if they’re found they send for
reinforcements! Once the cells figure out how to beat the invader, they call for antibodies
to be produced which search the body for other viruses or bacteria that need kicking out. Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system,
because they are basically exposed lymph nodes. The lymphatic system balances the fluids in
our bodies, and also helps us fight infections. See, capillaries are constantly leaking water
and proteins into the tissues around them. If we did nothing about it, we’d swell up.
So the lymphatic system takes that clear, colorless fluid, called lymph, which also
contains white blood cells and bacteria-eating lymphocytes from the soft tissues to the lymph
nodes for cleaning. If there’s an infection the lymph systems clean it out using that
fluid, which is why lymph nodes in your groin, neck, chest, abdomen, and armpits swell to
indicate an infection; just like those old buggers the tonsils! They get infected more often between the ages
of 4 and 10 years old, because the immune system is more active in kids than adults.
After 11, the tonsils shrink. Swollen tonsils can cause breathing problems, sleep apnea,
or increase risk of other bacterial infections; not to mention the sickness causing the swelling.
Normally, they’re removed if they become infected multiple times in a single year,
and though it’s less common than 60 years ago, there are still 380,000 tonsillectomies
annually in the U.S.. So what do the tonsils do? They’re the body’s
version of a guard tower. But, the reason you can live without your tonsils is because
we’ve got a pretty awesome immune system! Thanks for your question SSDragon19! Do you have a science question YOU want answered?
Ask us in the comments and if we pick yours you can get some fun DNews swag! Maybe even
a DNews t-shirt! Subscribe to DNews and tell us if you’ve got your tonsils, too. I’ve got
mine. I was super jealous of all that ice cream.

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