Childs Tonsil Problems
Tonsil & Adenoid Problems

Common ENT issues that children may suffer as they grow.

Tonsil and Adenoid Issues

Tonsil and adenoid problems are very common in young children. This is usually tonsillitis or breathing problems including sleep apnoea.

  • Tonsils are a pair of soft tissue swellings that sit in the back of your child’s mouth.
  • The adenoids are a soft tissue that sit in the back of your child’s nose.
  • They form part of the immune system particularly in early life and act as a barrier to infection as germs enter the nose and mouth.
  • Need diagram

  • Sleep apnoea and snoring can occur with large tonsils and adenoids.
  • Tonsillitis (infection of the tonsils) also commonly occurs in children.
Tonsil and Adenoid Problems

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea

  • Sleep apnoea occurs when your child pauses their breathing for short periods at night time.
  • This can be due to large tonsils, large adenoids and swelling of lining of your child’s nose (rhinitis or hay fever).

  • Sleep apnoea reduces the quality of sleep in children.
  • Children are reliant on good quality sleep for growth and development.
  • If left untreated children it can have an adverse effect on behaviour, development and rarely can cause growth and heart problems.

  • The history and description from parents is very important.
  • A video recording of your child sleeping is also a very useful tool, we therefore encourage parents to bring in a few clips of their child sleep prior to the appointment.
  • Examination of the child usually reveals the cause. This can include large tonsils, large adenoids and inflammation of the lining of the nose (rhinitis).
  • Some children habitually breath through their mouth due to blockage of the nose and throat from tonsils and adenoids.
  • Occasionally, your child may require a sleep study to assess their oxygen levels and respiratory effort but this is usually when your child has other medical conditions.

  • Most children will grow out of their sleep problems as they get bigger and their tonsils and adenoids become smaller and cause less obstruction.
  • Medical treatment centres around improving nasal blockage, including sea water spray in your child’s nose and a short course of a low dose steroid nasal spray.
  • In children with persistent breathing problems surgery may be required.
  • This is usually in the form of a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and/or shrinking the inner lining of your child’s nose (turbinate reduction- see section on Nasal blockage).


  • Tonsillitis is an acute infection of the tonsils that usually affects children aged 5-15 years old.
  • It can be viral or bacterial and is usually self limiting.
  • Unfortunately, some children suffer with frequent tonsillitis leading to frequent time of school and nursery and a significant reduction in quality of life for the child and their parents.

  • The majority of children will grow out of recurrent tonsillitis.
  • In children with persistent tonsillitis, tonsillectomy may be required (see Tonsillectomy).
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