Adenoids are small glands located in the back of the throat. Made of lymphoid tissue, their purpose is to fight germs in young children. Because lymphoid tissue exists in many areas of the body and because adenoids naturally shrink as children reach puberty, some doctors believe these glands become less important in older children. Ongoing anoid problems often require surgery, but there are other treatment options.
Why Surgery is Recommended
Sometimes frequent infections cause adenoids to swell. Enlarged adenoids can block your child’s airway, forcing him to breathe through his mouth, snore and possibly experience sleep apnea. Swollen adenoids can also block his Eustachian tube. This blockage may cause fluid to build up behind his eardrum, resulting in a condition known as glue ear. Not only is glue ear painful but it can reduce hearing to the point of deafness. Removing adenoids, or an adenoidectomy, eliminates these problems. Removal can also reduce the frequency of ear infections and lessen the effects of common colds.
When Surgery is Not Recommended
Every operation involves slight risks. Although it’s unlikely, your child may have a negative reaction to anesthesia or the surgery might lead to infection or bleeding. These risks are minimal. However, if your child has a blood disorder that makes her bleed or bruise easily or a medical condition that makes general anesthesia unsafe, adenoidectomy is probably not her best option. A soft palate would also make surgery an unwise choice. In this case, removing her adenoids would cause food and fluid to come down from her nose. Since enlarged adenoids often mask symptoms associated with a soft palate, ask her doctor to check for this condition before scheduling surgery.
As of 2009, surgery is the only known cure for chronic adenoid infection. However, your child’s adenoids will shrink as he gets older. Over time, the problems caused by enlarged adenoids become less severe and less frequent. By the age of 12 or 13, most adenoids disappear completely, eliminating all related complications.
Antibiotics may reduce swelling caused by infection but this option becomes less effective with frequent or repeated use. The increased instances of drug-resistant bacteria have made even long-term use of antibiotics ineffective in destroying some infections found in adenoid tissue.
Steroid Nasal Sprays
Topical nasal steroids relieve the symptoms of enlarged adenoids in some children, according to the medical group, London ENT (ear-nose-throat) Surgeons. Steroid nasal sprays include Beconase AQ®, Vancenase DS AQ® (beclomethasone); Flonase® (fluticasone); Nasacort AQ®, Nasacort® (triamcinolone); Nasarel® (flunisolide); Nasonex® (mometasone) and Rhinocort® (budesonide). When used as directed, these sprays are safe and can be effective. A prescription from your child’s doctor is required.
Steroid nasal sprays are not a cure. As soon as treatment stops, the adenoids may swell again and the symptoms will return. However, according to Mayo Clinic, ongoing, long-term use of steroid nasal sprays does not cause any significant risks to your child’s health. Still, she may experience some side effects. These include burning, itching feelings in the nose and throat, headaches, nosebleeds, sneezing, runny nose and upset stomach. If these side effects don’t go away or become severe, talk to your child’s doctor.
Mayo Clinic does not recommend long-term use of over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays such as Afrin. Ongoing use of these products can cause rebound congestion and make symptoms worsen over time. If you plan to treat enlarged adenoids with topical nasal sprays, be sure to use steroid nasal sprays prescribed by your child’s doctor.