Little giants 2 October, 2018 Maria Clara Restrepo E.
Enlarged adenoids, the tissues located in the upper back part of the throat behind the nose, are a common ailment among children.
Medical Advisor Adriana María Aguirre Roldán, family practitioner
The adenoids are lymph tissues that function as a filter for the airway that connects the nose and throat. Their main function is to prevent the entry of all kinds of particles such as dust or germs. To do this, they rely on small hairs known as cilia that perform a broom-like function and produce snot. The cilia have the vital task of collecting foreign bodies so that they do not reach the lungs or turbinates (part of the nasal passages).
If the adenoids become inflamed, explains family practitioner Adriana María Aguirre Roldán, this is known as adenoid hypertrophy (enlarged adenoids), an uncomfortable swelling that causes mucus production to increase and makes the viruses and bacteria that cause infection to accumulate.
As our specialist explains, this condition generally occurs in children under age seven, as some children are born with nasal structures that are “a little bit bigger than normal, causing conditions such as allergic rhinitis or asthma.” After age seven, the adenoids adjust to the proportions of the child’s face. While swollen adenoids can be treated with surgery, this is not always necessary.
Some patients are also born with atopic diseases (allergies) that are related to this increase in size.
As Aguirre emphasizes, having enlarged adenoids is not rare. This condition has actually become common given the atmospheric conditions that increase cases of allergic rhinitis caused by changes in temperature and the presence of more contaminating particles. This brings infections that are difficult for this tissue to catch.
Some of the warning signs of this disease include breathing through the mouth as the result of having a plugged nose (mostly at night), bad breath, cracked lips, dry mouth, runny nose or persistent nasal congestion, restless sleep, snoring, breathing that stops during sleep (apnea), and frequent ear infections. Other respiratory ailments that children may have include the flu or viral rhinopharyngitis, pharyngitis and croup – an infection that inflames the larynx.
1. Is removing the adenoids an alternative?
One of the medical alternatives for treating hypertrophic (enlarged) adenoids is to remove these issues. “It used to almost always be that when a child had frequent sinusitis, tonsillitis or respiratory infections, the general rule was to almost always operate.” However, according to Dr. Aguirre, this is not the best option, because the adenoids help protect the respiratory system by producing immunological substances, which also provides protection from the environment. In this case, “Their absence would only worsen the protection of the lungs or turbinates.”
2. Alternatives to alleviate swelling
There are other forms of treating inflammation in these tissues. According to Dr. Aguirre, the main treatment is through self-care. If the person is aware that their body has a respiratory response to a stimulus because they are allergic – such as smells, cigarette smoke, dust or changes in temperature – it is best to avoid contact with these stimuli. Another alternative is to clean the nose with saline solution. See your doctor to determine what treatment is right for you, which depending on the case, may include antibiotics.
You may be interested: Adenoids in children