Like the tonsils, the adenoids are part of the immune system of lymph tissue. It is thought that this lymph tissue acts as an immune barrier to fight infections transmitted through the mouth and nose. However, an infected adenoid or enlarged adenoid can block the nose or Eustachian tubes, often causing a recurrent or chronic middle ear infection known as otitis media. An infected or enlarged adenoid can also cause a chronic buildup of mucus and bacteria that may lead to infection of the nose (rhinitis) or even infection of the sinuses (sinusitis).

Symptoms & Causes

When a child’s nasal passages are blocked by an enlarged adenoid, symptoms such as snoring or constant mouth breathing often appear. In younger children, blockage can interfere with respiration, especially at night when the muscles of the throat are relaxed. This condition, known as sleep apnea, can cause actual pauses in a child’s breathing and can be a significant threat to a child’s health. Children with sleep apnea appear to work hard at breathing during sleep, may perspire, be restless or change positions frequently. Inability to breathe through the nose with chronic mouth breathing may also cause abnormalities in dental and facial growth.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If your child is exhibiting the symptoms of enlarged or infected adenoids, we encourage you to schedule an evaluative appointment with one of our pediatric ENT specialists. Your physician may elect to treat infected or enlarged adenoids with one or several courses of antibiotic therapy. However, if this fails to resolve the problem or has been tried previously, a surgical procedure to remove the adenoids, called an adenoidectomy, may be recommended.