The adenoids are part of the lymphatic system and play a role in the body’s ability to fight infection. They sit like little sentinels high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate. They monitor the air coming in for viruses and bacteria. When they detect them, the immune system swings into action. However, recurring infections can cause the adenoids to become swollen and obstruct breathing. When the adenoids become a problem and not an asset, the ENT will recommend their removal.

Signs adenoid surgery may be necessary

Adenoids are frequently removed because they are enlarged. Frequent tonsillitis is one of the main reasons adenoids are enlarged. In addition, enlarged adenoids cause problems with breathing and may cause problems with sleeping. Enlarged adenoids can be signaled by:

  • Chronic problems breathing through the nose
  • Mouth breathing
  • Noisy breathing during the day
  • Snoring at night
  • Restlessness during sleep or sleep apnea

Recurrent ear infections can also be caused by enlarged adenoids. The swelling in the adenoids prevents the Eustachian tube from draining fluid properly.

When infections are frequent or do not respond positively to antibiotic treatment, the ENT will recommend removal of the adenoids. The adenoids may be removed with or without the tonsils.

Before adenoid surgery

In the days before surgery, assure your child that the surgery is to give them improved health. Point out that after recovery they won’t miss out on school, sports or other activities because of recurring infections. For smaller children, it is especially important to stress that the ENT isn’t removing any vital organs (such as the heart or lungs). Let them know they will look the same after surgery; it will not change their appearance. Be realistic about the recovery period. Let them know that they will feel some pain and discomfort in the immediate days after surgery but they will have medicine to control the pain.

Children may also have questions and fears about the use of anesthesia. Reassure them that they are in good hands and that they will be totally asleep during the surgery, they will feel no pain during the surgery and when it is done they will wake up. Let them know that as soon as they are fully awake you will be there with them.

After adenoid surgery

The removal procedure itself takes about 30 minutes to one hour at most. Recovery begins as soon as your child can take bits of ice chips from a cup! While still in the post-surgical care unit your child will be encouraged to sip clear fluids and take ice chips. Liquid is very important to the healing process and cold liquids reduce swelling and pain.

Some children feel nausea after surgery. This is either from blood swallowed during the adenoid surgery or as a side effect of the anesthesia.

Your child will not need to stay in the hospital overnight unless there are complications. When your child is released, you will be given a prescription for pain medication, detailed instructions for at home care and instructions for a follow-up visit.

Once you are home, allow your child to drink as much fluid as possible. It’s OK to offer only soft food for the first few days. While there are no dietary restrictions associated with adenoid surgery recovery, soft food is much easier on a sore throat.

Give pain medication as directed by the ENT. It is important to refrain from giving your child any over the counter medication with ibuprofen or aspirin as these can increase the risk of bleeding.

Follow the ENT’s directions regarding physical activity. Regular bathing or showering can be resumed.

If you have any questions about your child’s condition as they recover, don’t hesitate to call the ENT.