What are Adenoids?

Adenoids are small lumps of tissue located at the back of the throat, above the tonsils. They are part of the immune system, which helps fight infection and protects the body from bacteria and viruses.


Adenoids are only present in children. They start to grow from birth and reach their maximum size when your child is approximately three to five years old.

By the time your child is seven years old, the adenoids start to shrink away. By the late teens, they are barely visible. By adulthood, the adenoids will have disappeared completely.

The adenoids shrink and eventually disappear because they are not an essential part of the body's immune system. Although they may be helpful in young children, the body has much more effective ways of coping with infections.

You will not be able to see your child's adenoids by looking in their mouth. If your doctor needs to see them, they examine the adenoids using a light and a small mirror.

Why adenoids become swollen

Adenoids may become swollen or enlarged due to:

  • Infection with bacteria or a virus. Although the infection will eventually clear up, the adenoids may remain enlarged.
  • Allergies. Allergens (substances that trigger an allergic reaction) can sometimes irritate the adenoids, making them swell up.
  • A problem at birth. Your child may have developed enlarged adenoids in the womb, so may have had them from birth.

What is an adenoidectomy?

An adenoidectomy is a quick operation to remove the adenoids. The operation carries very few risks. Removing the adenoids will not put your child at greater risk of developing infection.

The body's immune system is perfectly able to cope with bacteria and viruses without the adenoids.

Additional information