7 Serious Causes and Symptoms for Adenoid Enlargement in Children


It is rightly said that, “When a child falls sick, whole family feels sick.” We cannot see our child in any kind of pain. Enlargement of adenoids is such a disease which occur mainly in children.

Adenoids are glands which are situated at the nasopharynx i.e. the junction of nasal passage and throat. Thus they are also known as nasopharyngeal tonsils. The function of adenoids is fighting the infections by producing white blood cells.

Adenoids are present only in childhood. They undergo a process of waxing and waning. At birth, only a small adenoid tissue is present, later it undergoes physiological enlargement, upto the age of 6 years and then it begins to shrink. It completely disappears by the age of 15-20 years. This happens because, in childhood our immune system is still developing and also children are more prone to many infections; hence this extra protection. As we grow up our immune system builds up and we no longer need this gland.

But sometimes these adenoids get hyper activated and get enlarged. This enlargement may cause dangerous problems. Here are some causes and symptoms of adenoid enlargement, which will help you for the prevention, early identification, and receiving an early medical treatment and will prevent the complications.

enlarged adenoids in kids

Why does adenoid gland enlarge?

As discussed already, adenoid gland is a lymphatic tissue. Now what exactly is that? Our blood flows through arteries, veins and capillaries. It never runs freely, then how can our body detect the infection! This is where lymph and lymph nodes come into action. Like blood system, lymphatic system is also a circulatory system of lymph, but unlike blood vessels, lymph vessels are open and thus lymph oozes out and baths the organ.


Thus it can detect any infection or cancerous cells. Lymph nodes are like checkposts, which check for infections. On detection of infection, they increase the number of white blood cells, to fight the infection. Thus when your body is under attack, these lymph nodes have to proliferate more white blood cells and so they swell. Adenoid gland is one such lymphatic gland. Its position makes it vulnerable for many infections entering through mouth as well as nose. But its excessive enlargement has some serious effects.

Causes of Adenoid Enlargement

  1. Generalised lymphoid hyperplasia

    This is enlargement of all the lyphatic tissues in the body, due to chronic or recurrent infections. In the general enlargement, adenoid is also involved.

  2. Recurrent attack of rhinitis

    As the name suggests, “rhinus” means nose “–itis” means inflammation, it is inflammation of nose. This may be due to various causes like viruses, bacteria, allergens etc. The recurrent attack of pathogens may cause enlargement of adenoid.

  3. Sinusitis

    As seen earlier, it is inflammation of the sinuses. Sinuses are the cavities present in any bones. Many such cavities are present in skull. Paranasal sinus, which is present on both side of nose and maxillary sinus, which is present in upper jaw, are such cavities, which can get easily infected. These both sinuses when are infected due to various pathogens, trigger the immune system and thus the adenoid gland enlarges. Normal infection subsidises quickly, without any problem, but a chronic attack can cause problems.

  4. Chronic tonsillitis

    Tonsils are like elder brother of adenoid. They are group of lymphoid tissues which are situated at the opening of pharynx i.e. just behind the opening of mouth. It is vulnerable to infections through mouth. Thus recurrent sore throats, chronic cough, infections of teeth are some common causes of tonsillitis (inflammation of tonsils). Most of the times chronic tonsillitis is accompanied by adenoid enlargement.

  5. Allergy

    Allergens like pollen grains, hay, dust, smoke etc do not cause an acute attack, but they keep on activating the adenoids, causing adenoid enlargement.


  • Nasal– As adenoids are present behind the nasal openings, they cause nasal symptoms such as
    1. Nasal obstruction: Adenoids are present just behind the nasal opening, when enlarged may cause nasal obstruction. Adults can sense nasal obstruction, but a kid cannot tell, some signs of nasal obstructions in kids are
      1. Mostly mouth breathing.
      2. Mouth is open during sleep.
  • Chronic infections in mouth.
  • Gasps for breath through mouth.

 In babies it causes problem in drinking milk, as during suckling mouth remains close and baby cannot breath through nose, this is a very dangerous situation. Do consult your doctor immediately.

  1. Continuous nasal Discharge: It is mainly due to obstruction of posterior nasal opening, through which the secretions normally drain out. Also the increases secretions are a cause of chronic infection. Kid mostly has a wet bubbly nose.
  2. Sinusitis: As we can see sinusitis can be caused by adenoid enlargement, while the vice-versa is also true. Main symptoms of sinusitis are- puffiness of face, a feeling of heaviness, headache, redness of face, pain on pressing the upper jaw and around the nose.
  3. Voice change: Due to the blockage of nasal passage, the nasal quality of voice is lost, and there is change in voice.
  • Aural (related to hearing) – Our ear, nose and throat are connected to each other. And infection in any of the organ spreads quickly to other.
    1. Eustachian Tube Obstruction: Eustachian tube connects the ear and the throat. Its function is to regulate the air pressure. But through this tube, infections also spread to ear quickly. As adenoid mass grows, it blocks the opening of tube, causing changes in air pressure due to which ear drum is retracted. Causing hearing loss. It may be partial or even complete.
    2. Chronic infection of middle ear: Our ear is divided into three parts, external, middle and inner. Middle ear is connected to the throat through the Eustachian tube. And thus is more vulnerable for any infections. Adenoid enlargement increases the risk of middle ear infections i.e. otitis media.
    3. General Symptoms
  1. Due to difficulty in breathing, feeling of uneasiness, continuous sense of heaviness and dullness the child becomes unable to concentrate on any task. Medically it is known as Aprosexia.
  2. Adenoid face: Certain facial features are seen in adenoid enlargement, they are together known as an appearance of adenoid face, it includes-
  1. Child has elongate and a puffy face
  2. Mouth is open
  3. Upper teeth appear crowded
  4. Nose gives a pinched in appearance
  5. Hard palate is highly arched


  • When symptoms are not marked, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for infection, anti allergy drugs for allergy and nasal decongestants. Please do take the doses as prescribed. Do not leave treatment in between when feeling better. The infection may reoccur.
  • If symptoms are sever, doctor will mostly schedule you for adenoidectomye. removal of adenoid gland. It is a simple surgery, usually complications are less.

This was all about adenoid gland. Prevention is always better than cure so some of golden rules are

  • Do not ignore a common infection.
  • Visit a doctor for cough, cold and sore throat which lasts for more than a week.
  • Do not stop your antibiotic dose in middle, always complete the schedule.
  • Maintain proper hygiene.

Hope this article was of help for all our parents!! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy and Healthy Babies!!