We all have gotten a sore throat from time to time, and sometimes the tonsils in our mouths become infected. However, tonsils are not the only vulnerable glands in our mouth. Adenoids, located higher up in the mouth, behind the nose and roof of the mouth can also get infected. Enlarged and inflamed adenoids are referred to as adenoiditis and can be painful and make breathing difficult.
What Are Adenoids?
Adenoids are a mass of tissue that, along with our tonsils, help keep us healthy by trapping harmful germs that pass through the nose or mouth. Our adenoids also produce antibodies to help our body fight infections. Unlike tonsils, which can be easily seen by opening our mouth, you cannot see the adenoids. A doctor has to use a small mirror or special instrument with a light to see the adenoids. Sometimes X-rays may be taken to see them more clearly.
While adenoids play an important role in keeping a person healthy, as you get older, adenoids become less important because our body is able to fight infection in other ways. In fact, adenoids often get smaller around age 5 or 6 and virtually disappear by the teen years.
Even though adenoids help filter out germs from our body, sometimes they can get overwhelmed by bacteria and become infected. When this happens they also get inflamed and swollen. This condition is called adenoiditis. It is most commonly seen in children, but sometimes affect adults.
Symptoms of adenoiditis can vary depending on what is causing the infection but may include:
• sore throat
• stuffy nose
• swollen glands in the neck
• ear pain and other ear problems
When the nose is stuffy, breathing through it can be a challenge. Other symptoms of adenoiditis related to nasal congestion include:
• breathing through the mouth
• speaking with a nasal voice, as if you are speaking with a pinched nose
• difficulty sleeping
• snoring or sleep apnea (a condition where you stop breathing for a short amount of time during sleep)
• poor feeding and weight loss/ failure to thrive
Treatment for Adenoiditis
Adenoiditis is treated with antibiotics. However, if a child has frequent infections, including ear and sinus infections, or antibiotics do not help, or if the child has ongoing breathing problems, surgery may be needed to remove the adenoids. This procedure is called an adenoidectomy.
A pediatrician may also recommend the tonsils be removed at the same time since adenoiditis and tonsillitis often go hand in hand. Surgery to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy.
Together, you and your child’s doctor can discuss the pros and cons of surgery and determine if it is necessary.