Adenoids are a patch of tissue that sits at the very back of the nasal passage.
Like tonsils, adenoids
help keep the body healthy by trapping harmful
that we breathe in or swallow.
Adenoids (AD-eh-noyds) do important work as infection fighters for babies and young
children. But they become less important as a child gets older and the body develops
other ways to fight germs.
In kids, adenoids usually begin to shrink after about 5 years of age and often practically
disappear by the teen years.
What Are Enlarged Adenoids?
Because adenoids trap germs that enter the body, adenoid tissue sometimes temporarily
swells (becomes enlarged) as it tries to fight an infection. Allergies
also can make them get bigger.
The swelling sometimes gets better. But sometimes, adenoids can get infected (this
is called adenoiditis). If this happens a lot, a doctor might recommend
they be removed. Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Enlarged Adenoids?
Kids with enlarged adenoids might:
have trouble breathing through the nose
breathe through the mouth (which can lead to dry lips and mouth)
talk as if the nostrils are pinched
have noisy breathing ("Darth Vader" breathing)
have bad breath
stop breathing for a few seconds during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea),
which can lead to disturbed sleep. This in turn can cause learning, behavioral, growth,
and heart problems, and sometimes bedwetting.
The doctor may ask about and then check your child's ears, nose, and throat, and
feel the neck along the jaw. To get a really close look, the doctor might order X-rays
or look into the nasal passage with a tiny telescope.
For a suspected infection, the doctor may prescribe different types of medicine,
like pills or liquids. Nasal steroids (a liquid that is sprayed into the nose) might
be prescribed to help reduce swelling in the adenoids.
What Is an Adenoidectomy?
An adenoidectomy (ad-eh-noy-DEK-teh-me) is the surgical removal of the adenoids.
It's one of the most common surgical procedures done on children, along with the removal
If swollen adenoids bother your child and don't respond to medicine, a health care
provider may recommend an adenoidectomy.
What Happens Before the Adenoidectomy?
A child with obstructive sleep apnea might need an X-ray or a sleep
study (polysomnogram) before the procedure. This lets doctors see how much nasal
blockage there is. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor might look inside the nose
with a light or a camera.
Your health care provider will let you know if your child should stop taking any
medicines in the week or two before the surgery. You'll also learn about what and
when your child can eat and drink before the surgery, since the stomach must be empty
on the day of the adenoidectomy.
You can help prepare your child by talking about what to expect during the adenoidectomy.
What Happens During the Adenoidectomy?
An ENT surgeon will do the surgery in an operating room. Your child will get general anesthesia.
This means an anesthesiologist will carefully watch your child and keep him or her
safely and comfortably asleep during the procedure.
The surgery is done through your child's open mouth — there are no cuts through
the skin and no visible scars.
Can I Stay With My Child During the Adenoidectomy?
You can stay with your child until the anesthesiologist gives medicine, and then
you will go to a waiting area until the surgery is over.
How Long Does an Adenoidectomy Take?
An adenoidectomy usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes, though it can take a little
What Happens After the Adenoidectomy?
Your child will wake up in the recovery area. In most cases, kids can go home the
same day as the procedure. Some may need to stay overnight for observation.
The typical recovery after an adenoidectomy often involves a few days of mild pain
and discomfort, which may include sore throat, runny nose, noisy breathing, or bad
In less than a week after surgery, everything should return to normal and the problems
caused by the adenoids should be gone. There are no stitches to worry about, and the
adenoid area will heal on its own.
Are There Any Risks From Adenoidectomy?
Most kids have no serious side effects or problems from an adenoidectomy. But there
are risks with any surgery, including infection, bleeding, and problems with anesthesia.
Talk to your child's doctor before the procedure about its risks and benefits.
How Can I Help My Child Feel Better?
Give your child pain medicine as directed by your health care provider.
Offer plenty to drink. Most children can eat and drink normally within a few hours
after surgery, but you can start with soft foods like pudding, soup, gelatin, or mashed
Kids should take it easy for a few days after the surgery. They should avoid nose
blowing for a week after surgery, as well as any rough playing or contact sports.
If your child's nose is stuffy, a cool-mist humidifier might help to soothe it.
Clean the humidifier daily to prevent mold growth.