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Adenoids - when you sound like you have a cold

adenoids; ear; infection; antibodies; throat;


Adenoids can't been seen even if you open your mouth really wideAdenoids are lumpy bits of tissue (glands) at the back of your throat. They can't be seen, even if you open your mouth really wide, because they are high up behind your nose and above the roof of your mouth (your palate).

A doctor can only see them if he or she uses a special kind of mirror on a stick or a special light which bends around corners which shows what's 'round the bend' above your mouth.

The job of adenoids is to help your body to fight infections.

What adenoids do

Adenoids work like your tonsils. Our topic on Tonsillitis - when your throat is often sore will tell you more about tonsils.

  • The mucous and hairs in your nose trap germs (bacteria or viruses) as you breathe them in.
  • The adenoids have special cells which make antibodies. These antibodies help to destroy the germs to keep you healthy.
  • Adenoids get smaller as you get older because your immune system has got better at keeping you safe from infections.

Immunisations help to keep you safe from some diseases as well. See Immunisation - keeping safe from diseases for more information on this.

If adenoids are swollen

If your adenoids are busily making antibodies and fighting germs they become swollen.

They might be swollen if:

  • your nose feels all stuffed up and you have to breathe through your mouth  
  • you snore when you're asleep and still feel tired in the morning because you have not slept well
  • your throat is sore and it hurts when you swallow
  • your neck hurts and there may be lumps below your jaw (swollen lymph nodes)
  • you have an ear ache. There are very thin tubes going from the back of your throat to the middle part of your ears. One end of the tube is right next to your adenoids. If your adenoids are large they can block this tube so that your ears can become infected
  • it feels like you have cotton wool in your ears and you can't hear clearly
  • you sound like you have a really bad cold and can't talk properly, like saying "Wot da madder" instead of, "What's the matter?"
  • you feel unwell.

What you can do

going to the doctor'sIf you feel unwell, like you have a cold and your ears hurt then tell mum, dad or whoever looks after you. He or she may take you to see a doctor.

The doctor will:

  • ask you some questions about how you feel
  • look down your throat and may use that special mirror on a stick
  • put a special instrument into your ears so that he or she can see if your ear drums are red or swollen
  • listen to your breathing using a stethoscope (say steth-a-scope) which makes the sounds of your breathing and your heart beating louder.
  • take your temperature
  • feel your neck under your jaw to check for swollen glands.

You may be given some special medicine called an antibiotic (say anti-by-ot-ik), to help your body fight off the germs.

It is important to follow the instructions until all the medicine has gone.

You may need to go to hospital for surgery to take out your adenoids if you are getting really sick often or getting lots of ear infections and the medicine isn't helping.

you may need to go to hospital

Kids say

  • soft food is yummy - yoghurt, ice-cream, bananas"My mum had her tonsils out and they took out her adenoids too. She was a kid at the time and they let her have lots of jelly and ice cream."
  • "My little brother had his adenoids taken out because he sounded like he had a cold all the time. You couldn't tell what he was saying. You can now though."

Dr Kim says

Dr kimSome kids have an operation to take out their adenoids to help them be healthier. Sometimes tonsils are taken out at the same time as they often become infected when adenoids do.

Don't worry if you have to have your adenoids out. You will be given medicine called an anaesthetic (an-iss-thet-ic) so that you will be asleep during the operation and you will not feel any pain. After the operation your throat will be sore and you will need to eat soft food for a while.

Many kids need to have their adenoids taken out. Our topic on Going into hospital will tell you more about what to expect.

Ice-cream is one of the soft foods you'll be able to eat


Your body's really wonderful
At looking after you
So keep it fit and healthy.
Your brain's the captain - body's crew
And if you get attacked
By some passing germ or flu
Your glands swell up with 'soldiers'
Who fight them off for you.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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