Adenoids are part of the immune system which helps fight infection and protects the body from bacteria and viruses.

Adenoids are only present in children. They start to grow from birth and reach their maximum size when your child is approximately three to five years old. By the time your child is seven years old, the adenoids start to shrink.

Sometimes a child’s adenoids can become swollen or enlarged. For most children, this will only cause mild discomfort and will not require any specific treatment.  However, for some children, swollen or enlarged adenoids can cause severe discomfort and cause symptoms such as a persistent runny nose, nasal sounding speech, breathing problems, difficulty sleeping or glue ear. In these cases, a GP may suggest the child has their adenoids removed.

What happens?

An adenoidectomy takes about 30 minutes to perform and is carried out under general anaesthetic. Your child will be asleep during the procedure and will not feel any pain. Your surgeon will remove the adenoids through your child’s mouth. They will then place a pack in the back of the nose until the bleeding stops. In most cases your child can go home on the same day once the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off.

Are there any risks?

The operation carries very few risks. Removing the adenoids will not put your child at greater risk of developing infection. The body’s immune system is perfectly able to cope with bacteria and viruses without the adenoids. However, as with all surgery, there is a small risk of complications such as:

• Pain
• Bleeding
• Infection

Ask your consultant to explain how any risks might apply to you.

Possible side effects

Following an adenoidectomy, some children will experience minor health problems. However, most of these are temporary and rarely require further treatment. They can include:

• Sore throat
• Earache
• Stiff jaw
• Blocked nose
• Halitosis (bad breath)
• Change in voice (your child may sound like they are speaking through their nose)

Most of these symptoms will pass within one to two weeks. They should not last longer than four weeks. If your child is still experiencing side effects after this time, contact your GP for advice.