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What are Adenoids?

Adenoids are often talked about together with tonsils. And more often, children get their adenoids and tonsils removed. This is because most kiddies usually have enlarged adenoids that even interfere with the functioning of their respiratory system. Although adenoids and tonsils have similar function, i.e. trapping bacteria and viruses, they're completely separate.

In definition, adenoids (pronounced: add-eh-noids) are those lumpy clusters of soft tissues located on each side of the throat behind the nose and roof of the mouth. Just after birth, a child's adenoids (also called nasopharyngeal tonsils) grow bigger until the time s/he is between 3 and 7 years old. Unlike tonsils, adenoids may not be seen by a look in the mouth. They're hidden and can only be examined through an X–ray or other special tools.

What is the basic function of Adenoids?

There are numerous allergens that waft through the air, and if inhaled or swallowed, they may cause infections or allergic reactions. Together with tonsils, your adenoids are there to trap these irritants from entering into your immune system. Adenoids are made up of cells that make antibodies to help your body fight infections.

Children younger than 5 years find it difficult to cope with infections because their immune system is to immature to fight infections. Adenoids are therefore helpful in lessening the function of the immune system. This is because they trap irritants before they proceed into the immune system. But as a child grows, these adenoids shrink and dramatically disappear as s/her reaches a teenage. As they disappear, the body develops other ways of preventing germs.

Enlarged Adenoids

At times parents are faced with a dilemma of a child that snores and breathes through the mouth. This is because your child's adenoids get weary of trapping germs that enter your child's body. Because your child's adenoids are too soft and immature, they sometimes swell as they try to fight off an infection. In adenoids are enlarged or have become swollen, you may have your child complain of:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Snores
  • Breathes noisily
  • Sleep apnoea

Parents often don't know what to do with their children's enlarged adenoids. The best option if you notice the above mentioned symptoms in your child is to visit your otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist). Your otolaryngologist will check your child using a stethoscope. Your doctor may even make several X–rays for the right diagnosis.

Since adenoids may not be seen, whether swollen or normal, your doctor will have to ask your child several questions. The doctor will ask your child how things feel in the nose, ears and throat area. He will feel your child's neck to differentiate whether your child has tonsillitis or an adenoids problem. But in most cases, when adenoids swell, tonsils also swell.

Your doctor will prescribe treatment option for your child. Most probably antibiotics will be a first treatment option. But if your child does not get better, your doctor may prefer an adenoidectomy (a surgical removal of adenoids procedure).

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