Tonsils and adenoids are composed of glandular tissue and are
found in the throat. The tonsils are two reddish-pink masses located on each
side of the back of the throat. Adenoids are found behind the nose and the roof
of the mouth. They are not readily visible without the aid of an instrument such
as a dental mirror, fiber-optic scope, or x-rays.
Tonsils and adenoids are both located near the breathing
passages where they are believed to assist the body in fighting bacteria and
viruses by catching infections and then helping to produce antibodies to ward
them off. This germ-fighting function is helpful to very young children.
However, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck
Surgery, this function becomes less important as children get older, with
possibly no importance at all after the age of three. Indeed, the American
Academy of Pediatrics reports that children are NOT more likely to get
infections after having their tonsils and adenoids removed.
Infections and Sore Throats Common
Children commonly face two problems with their tonsils and/or
adenoids. First, children may suffer from repeated infections which can lead to
sore throats. Such recurrent infections in the tonsils and adenoids can also
produce ear troubles. If, for example, these chronic infections affect the
nearby Eustachian tube (between the inside of the ear and the back of the nose),
the child may succumb to recurrent ear infections, earaches, and hearing
If the tonsil and adenoid infections are believed to be
bacterial (e.g., "strep throat"), your physician will likely prescribe
antibiotics. If antibiotics are not effective, your doctor may recommend
removal. "T & A," which stands for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, is one
of the most common operations performed for children. General anesthesia is
required; therefore, the child does not suffer discomfort during the surgery.
Patients can often be released after just 4 to 8 hours of recovery, although
they are sometimes kept in the hospital overnight. Parents should let their
children know that for a few days after the operation, they will have a sore
Enlargement May Bring on Breathing
The second tonsil/adenoid problem commonly faced by children
is difficulty breathing and swallowing due to significant enlargement. When the
adenoids or tonsils obstruct the child's breathing, snoring may result as well
as sleep interruption. In addition, a child who has difficulty in breathing
through his nose due to enlargement will, of course, engage in mouth breathing.
According to some orthodontists, when mouth breathing is chronic, the child may
ultimately suffer from misaligned teeth and face malformations.
Sometimes tonsil and adenoid enlargement subsides on its own.
When adenoids are enlarged due to allergies, it is also possible that treatment
of the allergy attacks will lead to their reduction in size over time.
Generally, however, when the tonsil/adenoid enlargement is significant and/or
persistent despite medical therapy, your doctor will likely recommend surgery (a
tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, as noted above).
Symptoms of Enlarged Adenoids
Since they are not as plainly visible as tonsils, it is
more difficult to tell when your child has enlarged adenoids. Here are
some questions that can help you spot this problem:
- Does your child's nose sound blocked when he
- Does your child complain it is hard to breathe
through his nose, or does he usually breathe through his mouth?
- Does your child breathe noisily during the day and
then snore at night?
- Does your child suffer from "sleep apnea" (at night,
while sleeping and either snoring or breathing loudly, his breathing
Does Your Child Have Tonsillitis?
|Watch for these symptoms and report them to your doctor:
- Child has sore throat accompanied by
- Bad breath
- Tonsils covered with a yellow or white
- Swollen neck glands (i.e., lymph nodes)
- Pain or discomfort when swallowing
- Slight voice
Hector N. Hernandez,
Assignment Accepted - New Patients Welcome
Boulevard Port Charlotte, Florida 33952 Phone:
© 2004 AAO-HNS/AAO-HNSF
Please read our disclaimer. Any information provided on this Web site should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with Dr. Hector N. Hernandez or other healthcare professional. If you have a medical problem, contact us for diagnosis and treatment.