Adenoids are pads of tissue, resembling tonsil tissue, that form a raised surface at the back of the nasal passage. They trap and destroy bacteria that enter the body through the nose, but are not essential for the body's defense against bacteria. Adenoids also help the body to build up resistance (immunity) to future infections.
In young children the adenoids are proportionally larger than at any other age. This sometimes causes the nasal passage to become partially blocked, which may result in snoring, breathing through the mouth (because breathing through the nose is difficult), or the buildup of mucus (catarrh or postnasal drip) in the nasal passage. This mucus build-up could cause a runny nose during the day or a cough when the child lies down. The swelling or mucus may also block the tubes that lead from the nasal passage to the middle ears (the eustachian tubes), causing hearing loss. Ear infection may follow.
Antihistamine tablets and nasal drops can reduce congestion, but nasal drops should not be used for more than four days at a time. They may cause irritation and excessive dryness in the nose and make the condition worse.
If deafness or infection in the middle ear persists after antibiotic therapy, a physician may recommend surgical removal of the adenoids (adenoid-ectomy). The operation is relatively simple.
Adenoids grow again after removal, but seldom to the original size.