Tonsils and adenoids are special lymph glands that serve as our own personal Homeland Security squad, constantly oozing out antibodies and directing white blood cells to capture viruses and germs before they can sneak into the body.
These big lumps usually don’t cause problems during the day. But during sleep, when the throat muscles relax and sag, large tonsils and adenoids can cause the whole tunnel to narrow dramatically. That makes a child’s throat collapse with each breath - like a paper bag collapsing when you suck the air out of it - leading to snoring or gasping for breath...or even completely stopping breathing for many seconds!
Fortunately, a few simple ideas can help these kids – and their parents - rest a little easier: If your child snores or struggles to inhale enough air while asleep (a condition called sleep-disordered breathing), try these simple steps to open up his throat a little bit more (you may even be able to hear dramatically improved snoring…right away): - Elevate the head of the mattress by putting a thick folded towel or blanket under it. - Moisturize the air with a cool mist humidifier. (Clean it daily to avoid mold). - Take your child off dairy products (milk, cheese, etc.) for two weeks. - Have her tested for allergies. - Ask your doctor about a trial of medication to shrink the tonsils (like an oral or inhaled cortisone or a leukotriene inhibitor). - Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom.
If the snoring and other sleep problems don’t get better after a week or two, then ask your child’s doctor if you should consider removing the tonsils and/or adenoids. The return of the T&A After World War II, doctors performed T&A (tonsils and adenoid) surgery at the drop of a hat.
In the 1970s, we radically reduced the number of kids getting this surgery. But in the 1990’s we began to realize that the operation was a huge help for children with blocked breathing. T&A surgery is currently the second most common outpatient operation for children. And thankfully, it resolves snoring and choking symptoms in 70 to 90% of uncomplicated cases. But here’s one caution: if your child is overweight or older than seven years of age, get a second opinion before agreeing to T&A surgery. Kids in these categories tend to have less success with the procedure. In fact, 50% of obese children can have residual symptoms after a T&A.