Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


3-minute read

Key facts

  • Adenoidectomy is surgery to remove the adenoids.
  • It may be recommended for children with enlarged adenoids that are causing problems.
  • Tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) can be done at the same time as an adenoidectomy.

What is an adenoidectomy?

Adenoidectomy is surgery to remove the adenoids — small lumps of soft tissue found at the back of the nose. Your adenoids are part of your immune system. They help protect your nose and throat from infection.

Adenoidectomy is usually a short and safe procedure. Your child will have a sore throat for a couple of days.

Illustration showing an enlarged adenoid.
An enlarged adenoid can cause breathing and sleep problems..

When may an adenoidectomy be done?

Adenoidectomy is usually recommended for children with enlarged adenoids that are causing problems.

Adenoids can be quite large in young children. Problems linked with large adenoids can include:

  • breathing and sleep problems, which can cause daytime tiredness and behavioural problems
  • mouth breathing
  • frequent ear infections and ‘glue ear

If large adenoids are causing ongoing problems, your doctor may recommend an adenoidectomy.

Sometimes, an adenoidectomy is done at the same time as a tonsillectomy (having your tonsils removed). An adenoidectomy may also be done at the same time as having grommets put in for a glue ear.

How to prepare for an adenoidectomy

You should follow any guidelines your hospital or clinic provides on how to prepare for an adenoidectomy.

For example, your child will be asked not to eat or drink for some hours before the operation.

What happens during an adenoidectomy?

An adenoidectomy is performed under a general anaesthetic.

The surgeon removes the adenoid tissue through your open mouth. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

Recovering from an adenoidectomy

After an adenoidectomy, it takes about an hour to recover from the general anaesthetic. The anaesthetic might cause nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting (being sick) and a sore throat.

Your child will be encouraged to drink and eat light foods. Your child will need to drink before you go home. Some children may go home on the day of the surgery, others will be asked to stay overnight.

Their throat will probably be sore for several days. Suitable pain-relief medicines will be recommended by your doctor.

If their tonsils are also removed, they will have more pain and it will last longer.

Your child should rest for a day or 2 after the procedure. After that they can go back to their normal activities.

For a few days — or maybe even weeks — after the procedure, your child might have:

  • a blocked nose
  • a smelly nose
  • a light, blood-stained discharge

Possible risks or complications

Adenoidectomy is generally a safe procedure, but all surgery has some risks. Your doctor will talk with you about the possible complications of this surgery.

Contact your doctor if your child has:

  • a fever
  • bright red bleeding from their nose or mouth
  • vomiting and has more than a teaspoon of blood in their vomit or vomits more than 3 or 4 times
  • trouble eating or drinking
  • pain that isn’t helped by pain-relief medicines

Resources and support

You can read more on preparing for surgery here.

If you want to know more about adenoidectomy, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.