The adenoids are similar to tonsils but lie at the very back of the nose. Their function is to produce substances called antibodies whose role is to fight infection. However, because there are many other similar structures at the back of the nose and in the throat which also produce antibodies, removing the adenoids does not lower the body's defences. Adenoids appear around the age of 2 and are often quite large in children but have normally shrunk dramatically by the age of 10.
What symptoms can they cause?
Large adenoids are only one of many causes of a blocked nose. In babies this can cause difficulty feeding because the infant has to stop sucking periodically to take a breath. The nose may also discharge or run excessively.
Very occasionally some children with large adenoids and tonsils may experience difficulty breathing at night and even stop breathing altogether for a few seconds. This is called sleep apnoea. If your child stops breathing during the night you should consult your GP.
The ear is connected to the back of the nose by a tube called the Eustachian tube. The adenoids lie close to the opening of this tube and can be the cause of ear infections or a condition known as 'glue ear" which may result in sore ears or dullness of hearing.
The size of the adenoids may be determined by examining them with a mirror placed in the mouth or a small camera in the nose. However this is often not possible in children. Sometimes an x-ray is done instead.
When will a surgeon decide to remove the Adenoids?
The adenoids are usually removed under a short general anaesthetic as a day case in hospital. The operation takes around 10 minutes to perform. Children are kept under observation for several hours afterwards to ensure that the bleeding has stopped. It is advisable to keep your child indoors for a couple of days after the operation and encourage them to rest and eat a normal diet. If well, they may return to school or nursery after one week but should avoid swimming for the first month to avoid getting an infection.