The tonsils are a pair of small masses of lymphatic tissue located at the back of the throat (pharynx). The adenoids are masses of lymph tissue located behind the nasal cavity. Together, the tonsils and adenoids form part of the body’s immune system which helps to fight infection by producing antibodies. Several different bacteria and viruses can cause infection of the tonsils and adenoids. Inflammation of the tonsils is known as tonsillitis and that of the adenoids is known as adenoiditis.
Tonsillitis and adenoiditis are common in children. The most common symptoms of tonsillitis are fever, severe sore throat, and pain while swallowing. The infected tonsils will appear red and swollen and may have white pus spots on the surface. If left untreated, they can lead to complications such as obstructive sleep apnea, repeated ear and throat infections, and breathing and swallowing difficulties.
Usually, acute cases of tonsillitis and adenoiditis respond well to antibiotic treatment, while chronic cases of too large or repeatedly infected tonsils and adenoids necessitates surgical intervention. The surgical removal of the tonsils is known as tonsillectomy and that of the adenoids is known as adenoidectomy. Often, adenoids are removed at the same time as the tonsils.