Children are more prone to developing problems with their tonsils or adenoids due to their smaller size. Their main purpose is to help the body’s immune system to ward off illness and infection. When they operate effectively, they help to keep your body healthy. However in some cases, especially with children, the tonsils or adenoids can actually become infected themselves. Many children do not have enough room in their mouth for them. When they eat or drink, food can easily get stuck in or around the tonsils or adenoids, making infection far more likely.
What Are the Tonsils and Adenoids?
The tonsils and adenoids are both located in the back of the mouth, near the throat. There is one tonsil on either side of the mouth. The adenoid is a piece of lymph tissue that is near the throat and nose and close to the uvula, the little ball that hangs down at the entrance to the throat. Lymph tissue helps produce antibodies to help the body fight infection, but their removal does not seem to generally inhibit your child’s immune function whatsoever. Research has proven that the adenoids and tonsils do not play a large role in the types of infection that commonly affect children and adults of modern society. In most cases, it is better to remove adenoids and tonsils that are subject to common inflammation and infection.
Chronic Problems Caused by the Tonsils and Adenoids
When enlarged, they can cause a number of potential problems. Children may experience obstructed airflow, problems with snoring or sleep apnea in children, or even problems eating and drinking. Then there is the added potential for recurring infections. Children may suffer from tonsillitis, or inflamed and infected tonsils, which can frequently result in sore throats, fevers, and scar tissue from repeated infection. The infection of the adenoids may spread to the tonsils as well. Many children experience chronic ear infections as the largest and most prominent symptom of the infection. Chronic infections of the adenoids, tonsils, and ears can lead to permanent damage if not resolved, which is why many doctors may opt for treatment to remove either or both the tonsils and the adenoids to prevent the infections from reoccurring.
Tonsil and Adenoid Removal Surgery
Both of these procedures are extremely common and relatively easy to perform. Depending on the case, the doctor may decide to remove both the tonsils and the adenoids, if they are both enlarged and subject to chronic inflammation and infections. Or, the doctors may remove only one or the other if only one has been experiencing infection.
Though the surgery is relatively minor, it still requires general anesthesia. There is always a small risk with any surgery that requires any type of anesthesia, but there is very little risk of complication with the actual surgical procedure. Both the tonsils and the adenoids can be easily removed in under a half an hour without cutting the skin. All the doctor will have to do is cauterize the blood vessels to prevent bleeding and then your child’s throat should heal on its own. The most common complications are residual bleeding or swelling, which will usually disappear after a few days. Your child will have to be observed overnight to make sure there are no complications from the anesthesia.
They may also be sore and in pain for a few days, but should be mostly healed within two weeks. After this, your child should stop suffering from recurring infections, and start to live a healthy life.
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About the author: Dr. Michael Barakate is a paediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia. For more information on ENT surgery and , visit .