The tonsils are oval-shaped lymphoid (immune) tissue on both sides of the back of the throat. The adenoids are lymphoid tissue located in the nasopharynx, the passageway that connects the throat to the back of the nasal cavity. Tonsil and adenoid tissue helps young children form important antibodies as they are exposed to various viruses and bacteria. The tonsils and adenoids are often enlarged early in life and typically regress as children age.
Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
Often, tonsils and adenoids can become so large that they can interfere with your child’s breathing at night, causing pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, “nasal” voice, nasal obstruction, and difficulty swallowing.
Although viral sore throats are common, some children will develop recurrent pharyngitis, which is characterized by recurrent strep infections involving the tonsils. Infrequent infections are treated with antibiotics, but if the infections become too frequent, a tonsillectomy may be required.
Patients with chronic inflammation of the tonsils can develop persistent sore throat, painful or difficulty swallowing, white “stones” from the tonsils (tonsilloliths), muffled voice, and bad breath.
Bacterial tonsillitis is usually treated with a course of antibiotics, while viral tonsillitis is treated with over the counter pain medication, salt gargles, and increased fluids.
When tonsillitis occurs regularly or isn’t responding to other treatments, a tonsillectomy may be advised. Tonsillectomy is a surgical removal of the tonsils performed on an outpatient basis.
If your child has symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, removal of the tonsils and adenoids is often curative. Depending on your child’s situation, a sleep study may be required prior to surgery.
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is typically performed as an outpatient surgery, but your child may stay the night at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, depending on his or her age and other factors.
If your child is experiencing the above symptoms and you would like to discuss treatment options with a member of our pediatric team, please call (860) 493-1950 or visit our patient portal to request an appointment.