What are tonsils and adenoids?

Tonsils are small glands in the throat, one on each side. They are there to fight germs when you are a young child. As you get older, the tonsils become less important in fighting germs and usually shrink. Your body can still fight germs without them.

Adenoids are part of a ring of tissue at the back of the throat. To visualize the adenoids, a nasoendoscope or a neck X-ray can be performed.

What is the purpose of tonsils and adenoids?

They are lymphoid tissue which helps to form antibodies. This may be important in young children less than 3 years of age but there is no evidence it is needed as a child grows older.

Will my child’s immunity be affected by removal of the tonsils and adenoids?

There is no evidence that children with their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer a decrease in immunity.

My child’s tonsils are large. Does it need to be removed?

Tonsils are only removed if they are causing problems. Common indications for tonsillectomy are:

  • Recurrent tonsillitis: Frequent infection causing high fever and recurrent sore throats
  • Snoring/ Obstructive sleep apnea: The tonsils may play a role in snoring when the soft tissues of the neck collapse and causes breathing to be arrested during sleep. 
  • Peritonsillar abscess/ Quinsy: This is a bad infection of the tonsil that can cause pus formation next to the tonsil. 
  • Suspicion of malignancy: There may be some suspicion of malignancy. This is not common in children. 

Indications for adenoidectomy are:

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Otitis media with effusion: fluid in the middle ear causing hearing impairment

How is surgery performed?

It is performed under general anesthesia (when patient is put to sleep). A device is inserted and mouth is kept open. The tonsils are then removed surgically. Thereafter the nose is inspected and adenoids may also be removed if indicated.

What should I expect after the surgery?

Patient should be encouraged to rest for at least 1-2 weeks after surgery. Soft food should be given for about 1-2 weeks after the surgery. Patient will also be encouraged to hydrate frequently.