Adenoids and adenoidectomy - Why is it necessary? 

Why adenoids need to be removed 

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 start to interfere with their daily life. In these cases, a GP may suggest the child has their adenoids removed (an adenoidectomy).

Breathing problems

Swollen adenoids can make it difficult for your child to breathe through their nose. Their nasal breathing may sound noisy or make a rattling sound causing them to breath through their mouth instead.

However, this can cause cracked lips and a dry mouth, which your child may find uncomfortable.

Difficulty sleeping

Swollen or enlarged adenoids can also make it harder for your child to sleep, and as breathing through their nose is difficult, they may snore.

In severe cases of swollen or enlarged adenoids, some children may also experience sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a condition that causes irregular breathing during sleep at night and excessive sleepiness during the day. It occurs when the upper airway collapses during sleep, temporarily cutting off the air supply.

Enlarged adenoids can make the throat narrower than normal, increasing the chance of the upper airway collapsing.

Glue ear

Swollen or enlarged adenoids can also lead to problems with the ears and hearing. This is because the adenoids can press on the entrance of the Eustachian tubes.

The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and help drain away any fluid that builds up in the middle ear, as well as maintaining air pressure within the ear.

When the Eustachian tubes are blocked, fluid can build up in the middle ear, leading to glue ear.

If your child cannot hear sounds clearly, it may affect their learning, development and social interaction so it is important that glue ear is diagnosed and treated.

If your child's glue ear is still causing hearing loss after three months, an adenoidectomy may be considered. This can help the Eustachian tube to function normally, which should also help treat your child's glue ear.

Other symptoms

Enlarged adenoids can also cause other symptoms, such as a constantly runny nose or nasal-sounding speech.


Page last reviewed: 18/05/2012

Next review due: 18/05/2014

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