Tonsils and adenoids: What exactly are they?
Tonsils and adenoids are part of a ‘ring’ of glandular/lymphoid tissue encircling the back of the throat. Tonsils are visible at the back of the mouth, one on each side. The adenoid is found high in the throat, right behind the nose and needs special instruments or an x-ray to view it.

“Tonsils and adenoids act as ‘policemen’ and help to form antibodies to ‘germs’ that invade the nose, mouth and throat,” according to doctors from Children's ENT Centre (Otolaryngology) at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group. This function may be important for young children up to three years of age, but there is no evidence that it is important after that. Studies have shown that children who have had their tonsils/adenoids removed suffer no loss in their immunity to diseases.

Should your child's tonsils or adenoids be removed (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy)?

Tonsils or adenoids should be removed in cases of:

1. Recurrent tonsillitis: Frequent acute infections causing high fever and sore throat
2. Snoring / obtructive sleep apnoea: Enlarged adenoids/tonsils causing nose and throat obstruction to breathing while asleep. Left untreated, may lead to complications involving heart and lungs
3. Chronic otitis media with effusion: Persistent fluid in the middle ear causing hearing impairment
4. Peritonsillar abscess: Pus forming around the tonsillar bed
5. Tumours: While these are rare, they may occur in children e.g. lymphoma

Read on to learn about surgical removal of tonsils in children.