For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Health Library

Browse A-Z
Search
    test
    test
    test
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Enlarged adenoids

Adenoids - enlarged

The adenoids are lymph tissues that sit in your upper airway between your nose and the back of your throat. They are similar to the tonsils.

Enlarged adenoids means this tissue is swollen.

Causes

Enlarged adenoids may be normal. They may grow bigger when the baby grows in the womb. The adenoids help the body prevent or fight infections by trapping bacteria and germs.

Infections can cause the adenoids to become swollen. The adenoids may stay enlarged even when you are not sick.

Symptoms

Children with enlarged adenoids often breathe through the mouth because the nose is blocked. Mouth breathing occurs mostly at night, but may be present during the day.

Mouth breathing may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Persistent runny nose or nasal congestion

Enlarged adenoids may also cause sleep problems. A child may:

  • Be restless while sleeping
  • Snore a lot
  • Have episodes of not breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)

Children with enlarged adenoids may also have more frequent ear infections.

Exams and Tests

The adenoids cannot be seen by looking in the mouth directly. The health care provider can see them by using a special mirror in the mouth or by inserting a flexible tube (called an endoscope) placed through the nose.

Tests may include:

  • X-ray of the throat or neck
  • Sleep study if sleep apnea is suspected

Treatment

Many people with enlarged adenoids have few or no symptoms and do not need treatment. Adenoids shrink as a child grows older.

The provider may prescribe antibiotics or nasal steroid sprays if an infection develops.

Surgery to remove the adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be done if the symptoms are severe or persistent.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your child has trouble breathing through the nose or other symptoms of enlarged adenoids.

References

Wetmore RF. Tonsils and adenoids. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW III, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 383.

    • After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery

      After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery

      Animation

    •  

      After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery - Animation

      Dr. Alan Greene explains what to do after your child's tonsils or adenoids are removed.

    • Throat anatomy

      Throat anatomy - illustration

      Structures of the throat include the esophagus, trachea, epiglottis and tonsils.

      Throat anatomy

      illustration

    • Adenoids

      Adenoids - illustration

      Adenoids are masses of tissue located high on the posterior wall of the pharynx. They are made up of lymphatic tissue, which trap and destroy pathogens in the air that enter the nasopharynx.

      Adenoids

      illustration

    • After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery

      Animation

    •  

      After your child's tonsil or adenoid surgery - Animation

      Dr. Alan Greene explains what to do after your child's tonsils or adenoids are removed.

    • Throat anatomy

      Throat anatomy - illustration

      Structures of the throat include the esophagus, trachea, epiglottis and tonsils.

      Throat anatomy

      illustration

    • Adenoids

      Adenoids - illustration

      Adenoids are masses of tissue located high on the posterior wall of the pharynx. They are made up of lymphatic tissue, which trap and destroy pathogens in the air that enter the nasopharynx.

      Adenoids

      illustration

    Review Date: 8/5/2015

    Reviewed By: Sumana Jothi MD, specialist in laryngology, Clinical Instructor UCSF Otolaryngology, NCHCS VA, SFVA, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    adam.com

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.