Dr Tom Smith: Countryside caution

Are farms dangerous places to take children to visit or to bring up children on?

What are you concerned about - your children catching infections from animals, being poisoned by pesticides and weedkillers, or being injured by machinery? Take the proper precautions to minimise the risks. Towns have their risks, too, such as road traffic accidents and air pollution. I've worked in a farming community almost all my life, and the children do very well. You can't protect children from every health risk.

I'm an adult male who has had dozens of sore throats in the past three years. My doctor tells me that I need my tonsils out. Is it likely to cure my sore throats? What are the risks for adults? I've heard that people can bleed to death from the operation.

Modern tonsillectomy is a very careful operation, in which the tonsil is removed whole, so excess bleeding is no longer a problem. Reported deaths during tonsillectomy range from one in 16,000 to one in 35,000 - a pretty low risk. Finnish surgeons have shown that if people such as yourself don't have surgery, they will have at least one more bout of sore throat lasting several days within the next three months, and then again at regular intervals thereafter. If they do have surgery, it hurts for around two weeks afterwards, but they have a much lower chance of a sore throat in the following six months. We don't know if the benefit lasts longer than that.

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