Adenoids and tonsils have similar jobs to do in the human body.
They both trap bacteria and viruses that could make you sick when you breathe them in from the air or swallow them.
Adenoids also make antibodies that help the body fight infection.
The adenoids are especially needed by babies and young children to fight infection, but ironically, it is at this age when problems occur that require an adenoidectomy or removal of the adenoids.
As the body ages, it develops new ways to fight infection and the adenoids are less important, which is why they have shrunk to almost nothing by the mid-teen years.
The adenoids are lumpy, spongy tissue arranged in clusters behind the nose, on either side of the throat. When they trap bacteria that enter the nose, they can become infected themselves and swell; the tonsils often become infected and swollen at the same time. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to control the infection.
When this process of swelling, infection and treatment is repeated multiple times, as it can in some young children, the adenoids remain partially swollen.
This causes symptoms like a perpetually stuffy nose that means the child always breathes through the mouth; this can make eating and drinking difficult and sleep also can be disturbed. Other symptoms are swollen glands, ear ache, trouble swallowing and even speech development can be affected. [symptoms of tonsillitis]
Most children simply out-grow problems with their adenoids, but in some children the situation becomes chronic. These children may be referred to a specialist doctor for assessment.
This specialist will decide if the child is a candidate for removal of the adenoids and/or tonsils; an x-ray may be needed to clarify the need for surgery.
These days, adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy are relatively routine procedures, usually requiring only one night in hospital. A general anesthetic is given to the child, but it is quite light as the procedure is not a long one.
A parent is allowed to stay with the child, except when they are in the operating theatre, at most hospitals; this lessens the trauma for the child. Of course, like any surgical procedure, there are some risks, and the doctor will explain these in detail.
Make sure you ask all the questions you need to, so that you are comfortable about what is going to be happening to your child.
During the surgery, the specialist will decide whether to remove just the adenoids or the tonsils as well. Recovery from the anesthetic is usually quick, and the child is asking for the promised jelly and ice cream in no time. Soft foods will be required for a few days until the raw area of the throat heals over.
Children bounce back really well after an adenoidectomy and are back to their normal activities in a week or two. Allow your child to recover at their own pace; they know when they can eat normal food again and when they have the energy for normal things.