Sinus Treatment in Albany, NY

What You Need To Know About Tonsils

What are tonsils and adenoids?

The tonsils and adenoids are located near the entrance to the breathing passages and are part of the body’s immune system. They stop germs including bacteria and viruses from entering the body. Tonsils and adenoids also help the body develop antibodies to germs.

Tonsils are oval-shaped, pink masses of tissue on both sides of the throat. They can usually be seen by looking at the back of the mouth using a flashlight.

The adenoids are a single mass of tissue. This mass is located in the very upper part of the throat behind the nose. The adenoids can only be seen with special mirrors or instruments passed through the nose.

What are the signs of tonsillitis?

Red and swollen tonsils
A white or yellow coating over the tonsils
A sore throat
Pain or an uncomfortable feeling when swallowing
Swollen lymph nodes or “glands” in the neck
Ear Pain

Will antibiotics help?

Tonsillitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Your health care provider may wipe the back of your child’s throat with a long cotton swab to help determine the nature of this infection.

If the tonsillitis is being caused by bacteria, your provider may give your child antibiotics . If a virus is the cause, antibiotics will not help. Your provider may also tell you about other ways to keep your child comfortable.

Can tonsil size affect sleep?

Yes. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids may block part of your child’s airway. This may cause your child to have noisy or difficult breathing and snoring as well as gasping or pauses in breathing while sleeping and as a result your child’s sleep may be interrupted. This is called sleep–disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea may also cause your child to have symptoms of irritability, hyperactivity, attention deficit and sleepiness during the day. Your child may also wet the bed or in extremely rare instances have heart problems.

Can tonsil size affect growth?

Yes. If your child’s airway is partly blocked by the position of enlarged tonsils and adenoids, this may force mouth breathing. As a result the structure of your child’s face may change. Also, the upper and lower teeth may not fit together well when chewing. This is called a dental malocclusion that may require treatment by a dental specialist.

Sleep apnea caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids may also slow your child’s growth and limit his or her height.

What are common reasons for removing tonsils and adenoids?

Sleep disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea
Upper airway obstruction (airway partially blocked by enlargement of tonsils and adenoids)
Frequent or chronic (continuous) tonsil infections
One or more abscesses (collection of pus) near the tonsil that may build up during infection
Difficulty swallowing
Impaired speech
Abnormal growth of the dental arch and face
Frequent or chronic sinus infections
Are tonsils and adenoids needed?

Both the tonsils and adenoids are part of your body’s defense against nose and throat infections however when one or both are often infected or enlarged, they may be more harmful than helpful.

What are the benefit as well as the possible problems of these operations?

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy treat partially blocked airways and frequent infections. Although these operations will not prevent all infections, your child may have fewer and less severe infections. These operations may cause problems including though not limited to: too much or delayed bleeding, infections, mild to severe throat pain and voice change. In addition, your child may get chills or feel nauseated from the anesthesia. It is extremely rare, though serious problems can occur with anesthesia. It is important to tell your doctor if any of your relatives has a bleeding disorder. In addition, you should tell your doctor about any medicines your child is taking including over-the-counter medicines. Some drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may cause a higher risk of bleeding.

What if my child needs an operation?

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are considered major surgeries and last about one hour. If your child needs one or both of these procedures, he or she will need anesthesia. In some instances your child may need to stay in the hospital overnight, though most times this is not necessary. You should speak with your ENT doctor about any of your concerns and what to expect after surgery. It is important that you know how these operations will help your child and what problems may occur.

This information was provided by the New York State Department of Health. For additional info, visit


ENT Facts

Otolaryngologists complete up to 15 years of college and post-graduate training.

To be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology, applicants complete college, usually four years of medical school, and at least five years of specialty training. Some then pursue a one– or two–year fellowship for more extensive training in one of the seven subspecialty areas.

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