What are adenoids?
Adenoids are a patch of tissue that is high up in the throat, just behind the nose. They, along with the tonsils, are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system clears away infection and keeps body fluids in balance. The adenoids and tonsils work by trapping germs coming in through the mouth and nose.
Adenoids usually start to shrink after about age 5. By the teenage years, they are almost completely gone. By then, the body has other ways to fight germs.
What are enlarged adenoids?
Enlarged adenoids are adenoids that are swollen. It is a common problem in children.
What causes enlarged adenoids?
Your child's adenoids can be enlarged, or swollen, for different reasons. It may just be that your child had enlarged adenoids at birth. Adenoids can also become enlarged when they are trying to fight off an infection. They might stay enlarged even after the infection is gone.
What problems can enlarged adenoids cause?
Enlarged adenoids can make it hard to breathe through the nose. Your child might end up breathing only through the mouth. This may cause
Other problems that enlarged adenoids can cause include
- Loud breathing
- Restless sleep
- Sleep apnea, where you repeatedly stop breathing for a few seconds while sleeping
- Ear infections
How can enlarged adenoids be diagnosed
Your child's health care provider will take a medical history, check your child's ears, throat, and mouth, and feel your child's neck.
Since the adenoids are higher up than the throat, the health care provider cannot see them just by looking through your child's mouth. To check the size of your child's adenoids, your provider may use
- A special mirror in the mouth
- A long, flexible tube with a light (an endoscope)
- An x-ray
What are the treatments for enlarged adenoids?
The treatment depends on what is causing the problem. If your child's symptoms are not too bad, he or she may not need treatment. Your child might get nasal spray to reduce the swelling, or antibiotics if the health care provider thinks that your child has a bacterial infection.
In some cases your child may need an adenoidectomy.
What is an adenoidectomy and why might I my child need one?
An adenoidectomy is surgery to remove the adenoids. Your child might need it if
- He or she has repeated infections of the adenoids. Sometimes the infections can also cause ear infections and fluid buildup in the middle ear.
- Antibiotics can't get rid of a bacterial infection
- The enlarged adenoids block the airways
If your child also has problems with his or her tonsils, he or she will probably have a tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) at the same time that the adenoids are removed.
After having the surgery, your child usually goes home the same day. He or she will probably have some throat pain, bad breath, and a runny nose. It can take several days to feel all better.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Pediatric Obesity and Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)
- Tonsillitis: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery
- Find an ENT (American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery)