What are tonsils and adenoids?
Tonsils and adenoids are lumps of tissue in the back of your throat. They trap germs and help your body fight infection. You can see your tonsils in the back of your throat. But you can't see your adenoids because they're up behind the roof of your mouth.
Locating the Tonsils and Adenoids
The tonsils are two areas of lymphoid tissue located on either side of the throat. The adenoids, also lymphoid tissue, are located higher and further back, behind the palate, where the nasal passages connect with the throat. The adenoids are not visible through the mouth.
Tonsils and adenoids get bigger if you have an infection
Big tonsils or adenoids sometimes make it hard to breathe or swallow
Big adenoids can cause problems with breathing during sleep and increase the risk of ear infections Acute Middle Ear Infection in Children The middle ear is the space just behind the eardrum. Germs can get in the middle ear and cause an infection. A middle ear infection is also called otitis media. An acute middle ear infection... read more
Doctors sometimes do surgery to remove adenoids that are too big
What causes tonsils and adenoids to enlarge?
Some children are born with tonsils and adenoids that are bigger than normal.
A child's tonsils and adenoids may grow too big because of repeated:
Other things that irritate the throat (such as gastroesophageal reflux Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) GERD (acid reflux) is a disease caused by your stomach contents and stomach acid flowing back up your esophagus. Your esophagus is the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Acid reflux... read more )
What are the symptoms of having enlarged tonsils and adenoids?
Big tonsils and adenoids often don't cause symptoms. When they do cause symptoms, children may:
Sound like they have a cold when they don't
Breathe through their mouth, instead of their nose
Have trouble breathing or swallowing
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids may cause more serious problems, such as:
Ear or sinus infections that don't go away or keep coming back
Hearing loss due to fluid buildup in the ear Fluid in the Ear (Secretory Otitis Media) in Children Your middle ear is a hollow space behind your eardrum. The middle ear contains 3 tiny bones that transmit vibrations of your eardrum to the nerves in your inner ear. Your eustachian tube connects... read more
How can doctors tell if my child’s tonsils or adenoids are too big?
The doctor will:
Look at your child's tonsils with a tongue depressor when your child sticks out his or her tongue and says "Ah"
Look at your child's adenoids using a tiny scope up your child’s nose (the scope doesn't hurt)
Doctors may also test for problems that result from big tonsils and adenoids, such as:
Ear or sinus infections, with blood tests and imaging studies
Ear fluid buildup, with hearing tests
Your child may lose weight because of trouble breathing while eating. The doctor will compare your child's weight to standard growth charts to see if the weight loss is a concern.
How do doctors treat enlarged tonsils and adenoids?
Your child's doctor may give your child medicine to treat infections or allergies that are irritating the tonsils or adenoids.
Doctors may suggest removing the adenoids and tonsils if your child has:
A very hard time talking and breathing
Many throat infections
Doctors may suggest removing only your child’s adenoids if your child has:
A lot of ear infections and fluid behind the eardrum that won't drain
A stuffy nose that makes it hard to breathe and talk
Many sinus infections
Children can usually go home the same day as the surgery. If just the adenoids were removed, your child should feel better in 2 to 3 days. If the tonsils were also removed, recovery should take about 2 weeks.