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 in order to see it. Figures 1 & 2 show the anatomical sites of tonsils and adenoids.
They act as "policemen" and help to form antibodies to "germs" that invade the nose, mouth and throat. This function may be important in young children up to 3 years old but there is no evidence that it is important after that. Studies have shown that children that have tonsils/adenoids removed suffer no loss in their immunity to diseases.
Frequent acute infections causing high fever and sore throat.
Enlarged adenoids/tonsils causing nose and throat obstruction to breathing while asleep. If untreated, it may lead to complications involving the heart and lungs.
Persistent fluid in the middle ear causing hearing impairment
Pus forming around the tonsillar bed
Rare, but may occur in children e.g. lymphoma
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