Enlarged neck tonsils in children


The tonsils are part of the body’s immune system and sit on either side of the pharynx. The tonsils are larger in children than in adults. Sometimes the tonsils become so big that the child gets difficult to breathe, gets cumbersome or difficult to sleep. Then the tonsils may need to be removed.

What are enlarged neck tonsils?

The tonsils are two glands that sit on either side of the throat at the same height as the back of the tongue. They are part of the body’s immune system that protects against infections.

The tonsils are larger in children than in adults. They then gradually shrink during their teens. The tonsils can be so large that the child gets the trouble from them. It is called having enlarged neck tonsils. Getting problems with enlarged neck tonsils is most common between two and five years of age.

There is no established explanation for why children get enlarged throat tonsils. 

The tonsils are also called tonsils.  


Most children do not have any problems even if the tonsils look very large. But some children may find it harder than usual to breathe. Sometimes the speech can also be affected by enlarged neck tonsils. Then it sounds thick and mushy when the child talks.

The child may also have problems with sleep and may, for example, snore, take a breather and sleep anxiously. Breathing breaks can cause the child to become tired during the day or become overactive. Poor night’s sleep can also cause the child to pee at night.

In some, the swallow can become so crowded that the child gets difficult to swallow and can only eat finely divided or mashed food in very small chews.

When should I seek care?

Contact a child care center or health care center if the child has trouble eating, has breathing pauses, snores or has other sleep problems.


During the examination, the doctor looks into the child’s mouth to see how large the tonsils are. If the tonsils are large, you will receive a referral to an ear-nose-throat doctor. There, the space behind the nose is also examined to see if the gland behind the nose is swollen as it can cause similar symptoms as enlarged throat tonsils. At the same time, the doctor examines the back of the tongue and the lower part of the throat to see if it is crowded there.

The examination is done using a narrow, flexible tube called a fiber endoscope.

Sometimes a sleep record is also made to find out the frequency of respiration breaks and how long they are.  

Treatment of enlarged neck tonsils in children

All or part of the tonsils can be operated on if the child has major problems with enlarged tonsils. This creates more space in the throat. Most children then get rid of their problems.

Read more about how an operation of the tonsils is done here.

It is common for the child to have enlarged neck tonsils in combination with an enlarged gland behind the nose. If the child has an enlarged gland behind the nose, it is also removed.

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