Tonsils and Adenoids

What are they?

The tonsils are soft tissue at the back of the throat, and together with the adenoids (at the back of the nose) they make a ring of tissue that help to protect the body from certain bacteria and viruses that you may ingest.

They form just one part of the bodies defence system, so even if they are removed, you do not suffer a long-term reduction in your immune systems health.

When they might need to be removed

Removing the tonsils or adenoids are two different operations which may be done at the same time. This is because they are in the same area and can be affected by the same conditions.

For children, tonsillectomy and possibly adenoids maybe removed because of difficulty breathing and sleeping (large tonsils or adenoids can prevent child from breathing normally through the mouth or nose. This may lead to short periods during sleep where the child stops breathing, otherwise termed ‘sleep apnoea’).

Other reasons for removal include;

Many throat or ear infections – if conservative treatment does not help, a child/adult may benefit from surgery to remove the tonsils

Trouble with swallowing

A growth in or on the tonsil

Reference; The Sydney Childrens Hospital Network; Patient Factsheet ‘Tonsillectomy’. Access the full version online at