The tonsils may get all the headlines when it comes to structures of the throat, but adenoids shouldn’t be forgotten. They play a similar role as the tonsils and can raise similar concerns when they aren’t functioning optimally. Here’s what you should know about adenoids.
They may sound like something out of science fiction, but the adenoids play an important role in our immune system when we’re young. These patches of lymphatic tissue are part of the lymphatic system which helps to regulate the body’s fluids and clear infections. The adenoids can be found in the throat behind the nose and work with the tonsils to trap bacteria and viruses entering the body through the nose and mouth. Once caught, immune cells within the tissue can work their magic to eliminate the invaders and prevent further infections and illness.
You may wonder why something that plays such a key role in our bodies isn’t talked about more in your regular checkups and favorite online health forums. That’s because adenoids have all but disappeared by the time we reach our teens and into adulthood. They start to decrease in size after the age of five as our bodies develop more robust immune systems and strategies for fighting off the germs adenoids once filtered and blocked.
Adenoids generally work so quietly and efficiently in the background when we’re growing up that we may never know they’re there unless they become enlarged or infected.
When adenoids may need an expert
In some cases, a child’s adenoids can be enlarged from birth. In other instances, enlarged adenoids can be the result of an infection. Filtering and trapping viruses and bacteria throughout the day can be risky work, and occasionally a child’s adenoids succumb to those germs. In either case, several symptoms can alert you that your child needs to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) expert about enlarged adenoids. These include:
Difficulty breathing through the nose (plus associated dry mouth and bad breath)
An ENT can most effectively diagnose and treat what may be causing your child’s enlarged adenoids with special tools and possibly antibiotics. In some cases, that treatment may include removing the adenoids.
A common solution
In some cases where enlarged adenoids and frequent infections are causing other concerns like ear infections and difficulty breathing, an adenoidectomy is the recommended solution. Generally, if a child experiences an infection seven times within a single year or 3 episodes per year for three consecutive years, surgery would be considered the next step to prevent more serious complications such as hearing loss.
While this may sound like a big step to consider, removal of the adenoids often makes little impact on the immune system.
For the most part, enlarged and infected adenoids can be treated by your ENT without surgery.
If you believe your child’s adenoids are enlarged or infected, seek treatment from a professional to resolve discomfort and avoid more severe complications. We can help. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.