Adenoids, also known as pharyngeal tonsil, or nasopharyngeal tonsil are located at the back of the throat, above the tonsils - they are small lumps of tissue. They form part of the immune system of babies and young children; they protect the body from harmful bacteria and viruses, they fight off infection.
Adenoids start growing from birth and reach their peak size when the child is between about 3 and 5 years of age. After the age of 7 they shrink, and are barely detectable during adolescence. They will have disappeared completely by the time a person has become an adult.
Babies and very young children have undeveloped immune systems. At that age the adenoids are a useful back up for fighting off infections. Later on in life, when the immune system is better developed and can cope with infections more effectively, they are not needed.
Unlike the tonsils, which can be seen if you open your mouth and look into the mirror, adenoids can only be seen when the doctor uses a light and a small mirror, or a flexible telescope. Why do adenoids swell up? Adenoids trap germs when they enter the body. In doing so they can sometimes puff up temporarily as they try to fight off an infection. On most occasions the swelling resolves on its own. However, sometimes medical treatment is required.
If the bacterial invasion is aggressive enough, the adenoids themselves can become infected.
Swollen or enlarged adenoids are common in children. Often the tonsils will swell up at the same time. Swollen adenoids may cause the following signs and symptoms:
Blocked or stuffy nose, the child may breath just through his/her mouth
The glands in the neck seem swollen
Even after the infection has cleared up, the adenoids may continue to be enlarged. In some children, an allergic reaction can irritate the adenoids, making them swell up. Some children may be born with enlarged adenoids. What is an adenoidectomy? The surgical removal of the adenoids. This is a quick and straightforward procedure with very few risks. Experts say that an adenoidectomy will not increase the risk of subsequent infections for the child. His/her immune system will be able to cope with viruses and bacteria without the adenoids. Most doctors will not perform an adenoidectomy on very young children.
Sometimes the doctor will surgically remove the tonsils at the same time - this is called a tonsillectomy.
There is a possibility of regrowth after the adenoids are removed. Adenoidectomy does not reduce frequency of respiratory tract infections Some lay people and doctors believe that removing the adenoids helps reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, such as sinusitis and colds. However, researchers from the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, the Netherlands, reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) (September 2011 issue) that adenoidectomy makes no difference to the frequency of respiratory tract infections.
Study leader, Professor Anne Schilder, said "One of the main reasons adenoidectomy is performed is to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. However, the clinical effectiveness of the procedure in children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections is lacking."
The ideal approach for children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections is a strategy of initial watchful waiting.
What Are Adenoids?
The adenoids (say: add-eh-noids) are lumpy clusters of spongy tissue that help protect kids from getting sick. They sit in the back of the nasal cavity and are above the roof of the mouth.
Although you can easily see your tonsils by standing in front of a mirror and opening your mouth wide, you can't see your adenoids this way. A doctor has to use a special telescope to get a peek at your adenoids. The doctor can also get an idea of the size of the adenoids by getting an X-ray of your head.
Like tonsils, adenoids help keep your body healthy by trapping harmful bacteria and viruses that you breathe in or swallow. Adenoids also contain cells that make antibodies to help your body fight infections.
Adenoids do important work as infection fighters for babies and little kids. But they become less important once a kid gets older and the body develops other ways to fight germs.
Adenoids usually shrink after about age 5, and by the teenage years they often practically disappear.
When Adenoids Swell
Because adenoids trap germs that enter the body, adenoid tissue sometimes temporarily swells (gets puffier) as it tries to fight off an infection. The swelling might go away on its own, but sometimes medical treatment is necessary. Adenoids can get so walloped by a bacterial invasion that they become infected themselves.
Swollen or enlarged adenoids are common. When this happens, the tonsils may also get swollen, too. Swollen or infected adenoids can make it tough to breathe and cause these problems:
a very stuffy nose, so a kid can breathe only through his or her mouth
snoring and trouble getting a good night's sleep
sore throat and trouble swallowing
swollen glands in the neck
Tell a grownup if you have any of these problems, so he or she can take you to the doctor.