The tonsils are two almond-shaped clumps of tissue on either side of the throat. They are embedded in a pocket beside the roof of the mount, with the lower edge reaching to the back of the throat. The adenoids are a single clump of tissue, shaped like a grape. They are located on the back wall of the throat, about one inch above the little teardrop-shaped piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat, called the uvula.
Tonsils and adenoids are mostly composed of lymphoid tissue, also found on the base of the tongue and in the gastrointestinal tract. This type of tissue is composed of cells called lymphocytes, which produce antibodies that literally devour invading bacteria. So contrary to popular belief, tonsils and adenoids do serve a useful purpose in the body: they serve as a defense against infections, such as respiratory tract infections. The tonsils can also trap germs and viruses that enter the body through the nose and mouth.
So why can they be removed so easily? And why are children so prone to tonsillitis? Scientists believe that the tonsils and adenoids developed as part of our immune system at a time when children were rarely exposed to large groups of people and the germs they carried. Today, with denser urban populations, children are exposed to many more germs and viruses, and the tonsils and adenoids are easily overwhelmed.
If your child's throat is red and swollen, or has a white or yellow coating, your child may have tonsillitis. Other symptoms include sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, raspy voice, and swollen glands in the neck.