Adenoids and Tonsils

adenoids and tonsils What are adenoids and tonsils? Tonsils

Tonsils are made of soft glandular tissue and are part of the immune system. Humans have two tonsils, one on either side at the back of the mouth. The main function of tonsils is to entrap germs which you may breathe in. Antibodies and immune cells in the tonsils help to kill germs and help to prevent throat and lung infections.


Adenoids are also made of glandular tissue and are part of the immune system. They hang from the upper part of the back of the nasal cavity. Adenoids get bigger after you are born but usually stop growing between the ages of three and seven years. Just like the tonsils, adenoids help to defend the body from infection.


Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. A sore throat, cough, fever, headache, generalized feeling of ill health are the common symptoms. Symptoms typically get worse over 2-3 days and then gradually go, usually within a week. Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by viruses, some are caused by bacteria.


This is also known as peritonsillar abscess. Quinsy is an uncommon condition where an abscess (collection of pus) develops next to a tonsil due to a bacterial infection. It usually develops just on one side. It may follow tonsillitis or develop without a preceding tonsillitis. Quinsy is very painful and can make you feel very unwell. It is treated with antibiotics and the pus often needs to be drained with a small operation.

When should I get my tonsils taken out?
  • Seven or more episodes of tonsillitis in the preceding year, or
  • Five or more such episodes in each of the preceding two years, or
  • Three or more such episodes in each of the preceding three years.

In addition to the above;

The bouts of tonsillitis affect normal functioning. The adenoids may also be removed at the same time for this reason.

What are the symptoms of swollen, enlarged adenoids?

Swollen adenoids may not cause any symptoms or problems. However, symptoms may develop in some cases, especially if the adenoids become very large.

  • Breathing through the nose may be noisy.
  • The child mainly mouth breathes.
  • A constantly runny nose.
  • Snoring at night.
What is the treatment for enlarged adenoids?

In a majority of cases no treatment is needed. Adenoids normally gradually shrink in later childhood and usually almost disappear by the teenage years. So symptoms tend to clear in time.

If symptoms are severe then a doctor may consider removing the adenoids and some children with glue ear may benefit from removing the adenoids.

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