Dr. Dean

Sneeze Nuggets: The Secret World Of Your Tonsils

Posting Date: 09/10/1999

I recently got a call about "sneeze nuggets" and wanted to pass on more information about this worrisome ailment. Sneeze nuggets occur in people who still have their tonsils and are little white secretions that can be chewy or soft, but are often hard.

These sneeze nuggets occur in young adults and are officially called tonsil concretions or tonsilloliths, but whatever the name, they?re foul-smelling, foul-tasting and cheesy. This is why people don?t talk about them very much even though we've known about them since 1530 AD.

If you?ve ever experienced these calcified objects, you?ve probably had both physical and social concerns over the concretions, which arise from retained material and bacterial growth in the crypts of tonsils and adenoids.

There are a couple forms of treatment, according to a definitive article in the Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. One is the use of topical silver nitrate to cauterize and obliterate the crypts. The other method, which I recently recommended to a woman caller, is using pulsating jets of water to clean the pockets of debris.

You might also be able to get rid of a persistent lumpy nugget by squeezing your tonsils until it loosens and can be coughed up and discarded.

In cases of persistent problems with pain, halitosis or foreign body sensation, the surgical removal of the tonsils may be the best therapy. I?ve never had these concretions since my tonsils are removed, but they often occur in young adults with recurrent sore throats.

Sneeze nuggets are rare in children but one study found patients? ages ranging from 20 to 68 and to be equally divided by sex.

Researchers say tonsil concretions primarily consist of calcium salts, usually with embedded vegetable matter and mats of bacteria. Most sneeze nuggets are small, but one of the largest measured 14.5 cm ? or a little over five inches ? and was reported in a patient in 1936.