Breathing Uneasy: Adenoid Trouble

S-W-PHY94111-PrmrENTAdenoids are clusters of lymph tissue that lie high up at the back of the throat, behind the nose. As part of the body’s immune system, along with the nearby tonsils, adenoids trap germs coming in through the nose and mouth, helping us to combat disease, particularly when we’re young. They’re most useful in that role between birth and about the age of 5. After that, the body has other ways of fighting off germs, and the adenoids begin to shrink.

When the adenoids are doing their job, they work like little sponges, absorbing germs that could make you sick. As a result they can sometimes become swollen, or enlarged. Adenoids can also become swollen even when they’re not fighting off germs. The problem of swollen adenoids is primarily limited to children; adults rarely encounter them.

What Are the Symptoms Of Enlarged Adenoids?

A child with enlarged adenoids may have difficulty breathing through the nose and so resort to breathing primarily through the mouth, which can lead to dry mouth, bad breath, cracked lips, and a runny nose. Children with enlarged adenoids might also experience:

  • Snoring
  • Sleeping trouble, such as apnea
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loud breathing
  • Ear infections

To check on your child’s adenoids, a doctor can perform a physical exam by using a special mirror in the mouth, or by using an endoscope — a long flexible tube with a light. X-rays can also be used to diagnose enlarged adenoids.

How Can Adenoids Be Treated?

Sometimes, if your child’s symptoms are not too troublesome, there may be no need for treatment at all; the swelling could resolve on its own. If treatment is required, your health care provider may prescribe a nasal spray to help reduce swelling and perhaps antibiotics if a bacterial infection is suspected.

Removing the Adenoids

In some cases, children may need to have the adenoids removed, in a procedure called an adenoidectomy. Children may need an adenoidectomy if:

  • They suffer from repeated bouts of infected and swollen adenoids (which can cause infections and fluid backup in the middle ear)
  • They have a bacterial infection that antibiotics are unable to resolve
  • Their enlarged adenoids block their airways

Adenoidectomy is typically outpatient surgery (no overnight hospital stay), and involves sedating your child under a general anesthetic and cutting out the adenoids. If your child is also prone to having tonsil problems, the tonsils are commonly removed at the same time in a procedure called a tonsillectomy. The surgery generally takes less than an hour.

If you’re concerned your child may have enlarged adenoids, talk with your health care provider. Or, make an appointment with a provider at Premier ENT Associates to be examined by a board certified ear, nose, and throat specialist.