What to Expect After Tonsillectomy Surgery

Let’s start with my own tonsillectomy recovery story. I wasn’t always this healthy. As a kid I ingested more penicillin than a corporate-raised chicken. I was in the doctor’s office several times each year with a sore throat. As the doctor or nurse peered into my mouth, the reaction was always the same: “Whoa, those are some big tonsils!” The diagnosis was usually tonsillitis, or strep throat. As the doctor wrote the prescription, he’d explain that years ago, tonsils like mine would have been removed, but, “these days,” we try to hang onto them. “These days,” were the 1970’s. I guess the tonsillectomy pendulum had swung back from the days when kids got their tonsils out because their brother was getting his out.


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Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case.

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As an adult I continued to suffer from frequent bouts of tonsillitis. It seemed that I caught every bug that passed through my house or workplace. I guess those big ugly tonsils were a nice home for those nasties. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I also became aware that I suffered from something called, Obstructive Sleep Apnea -a condition in which a person stops breathing while asleep. I snored often and would awake abruptly, gulping in big breaths. I felt tired most days. After raising four babies, I had come to accept fatigue as a normal part of life! One day at a routine physical my doctor remarked about the number of episodes of strep throat and tonsillitis I’d had. We also talked about the sleep problems. While he didn’t formally diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, he suspected that I had it. He recommended a tonsillectomy, because of all the tonsil problems I’d had. As a bonus, I might find relief from the sleep apnea as well.

If not, I’d undergo a sleep study. Forty four years old and father of four boys and a doctor finally said it: Those tonsils are doing you more harm than good!
As much as I hated those tonsils, I was terrified at the thought of going under the knife. I started reading about tonsillectomy recovery on the internet and talking to friends. That didn’t help. “My cousin knew a guy who got a tonsillectomy and bled to death.” “At your age, tonsillectomy is dangerous.” When I met with the ear, nose and throat specialist, (an otolaryngologist), he told me that the risks are the same for an adult undergoing tonsillectomy surgery as for a child, but tonsillectomy recovery is longer and more painful. He was right about that!


Deciding to get a Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips

Tips for tonsillectomy patients and families

I scheduled the surgery for the day after Thanksgiving. A traditional day of feasting in the United States. If it was to be my last meal, I planned to make it a good one! As it turned out, I was so nervous and scared that I could hardly eat on that day. I was recently divorced and had shared placement of my four boys. So many people counted on me that I began to question my decision. What if I died on the table? How reckless to leave behind a family, simply to avoid frequent tonsillitis? My aunt, a registered nurse reassured me about how simple the surgery was, and how far anesthesiology had come. I had nothing to worry about. Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case

“My tonsils were like a 400 pound gorilla on my back. I don’t miss them at all. Ever.” -from the forum ________________________________________________________________________________

I took a week off from work, asked my ex wife to take care of the boys that week, and asked my uncle to drive me to and from the hospital. (a requirement with anesthesia) That was about all the tonsillectomy recovery preparation I did. I was about to learn a lot!   Surgery went fine. I awoke in recovery with a serving of Jell-o in front of me. (“Jelly,” to my British friends) The nurse said that I had to finish it before I could check out. I swallowed it with great relish. It was divine! I called my uncle and we were out of there. I felt ok. I told him thanks and not to worry. I’d be fine. I believed this. Aside from a couple visits, I spent the next ten days alone in misery. The pain set in after about 24 hours. Streaming movies and television shows were my friends. Sleeping became my worst enemy. I’d wake up with my mouth dried out and my throat on fire. Oh my God. I was not prepared for this! I ran out of Popsicle’s on day three. I ran out of pain medicine on day five. The pain peaked on day seven. I broke down and cried in front of my brother on day eight- a combination of pain, drug induced depression, and sleep deprivation. Since then, I’ve read thousands of similar accounts on the tonsillectomy forum I created. It didn’t have to be so hard. If I’d known what I do now, I could have done so much to make my tonsillectomy recovery better. I hope to reach as many people as I can to help guide them through the tunnel. It has been my passion and taught me more about compassion and the amazing strength of the human spirit than any other life experience. When you shine a light for others, you also light your own path.

In the pages at follow, I’ll share tonsillectomy recovery tips with you that I learned from my tonsillectomy experience and years of coaching others through tonsillectomy and recovery. More about tonsillectomy…read more

I’ve put together a collection of items that I think would be helpful, if not essential, to making tonsillectomy recovery a little more pleasant. Check out the Tonsillectomy General Store.

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694 Comments on "What to Expect After Tonsillectomy Surgery"

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Gail Randle
Today 12:50 am

Grateful to find this site & comments. I am on Day 10 after tonsillectomy, aged 53, op 20 Sept 16. History of tonsillitis & ‘tonsil stones’. I was advised before leaving hospital that although initially you may not actually think you feel too bad after all, but to expect pain to worsen days 4-7 before improving. I’d say it has gone exactly as I was told, although pain in ears, bones of face, even teeth, was not anticipated to be so bad. I was advised to keep fully dosed on codeine, paracetamol & ibuprofen even when felt a bit better, to keep ahead of the pain & thus is good advice, I too have thought hey, I dont need it at the moment, then regretted later. Day 8 when I thought I might be out of the woods, early evening I was caught out by blood coming up into my mouth, thick & fast which scared me, I collected it in a tumbler & got down to A&E as was advised to do with any bleeding. It did stop, & I probably lost 1/4 of a cup. All was deemed ok by the nurse & so far it’s not happened again. I’ve now stopped any ibuprofen as I’ve now read this could be a cause. It has been tough, tougher than expected, like childbirth, you can’t tell anyone until they experience it themselves, but do as you’re told, take advice & stick it out, knowing that in 2 weeks you’ll be over the worst. I ate toast, crackers, normal.diet early on & I too think this helps with the scabs, clearing away debris that can lead to infection. I’m hoping to be able to say it was worth it in a while before I’d advise anyone to ‘choose’ to have this done. It’s underestimated by anyone I’ll informed as an insignificant operation.

September 4, 2016 6:07 pm

Do I had my tonsillectomy on the 30 August and stayed in one night at the hospital. Since the 1 September I have been in so much pain it hurts to talk, eat and drink. In the uk we are only given paracetamol, ibuprofen and a mouth wash which is a pain relief. I also have this horrible taste in my mouth that just won’t go away and my husband has said my breath absolutely stinks – he is a charmer! The pain had not improved its just as bad as it was and I thought my pain threshold was ok. When I was in labour I was 6cms dilated on 2 paracetamol! I just see no end to this and have cried a few times. The swelling has started to go down so that’s one good thing.
Also it’s a killer to yawn!

September 24, 2016 11:14 pm

Hi Tam I had mine out on the 19th September and I live in the U.K. This morning at 5am I have decided to google how I am feeling and was it normal and I am glad I did. I am the same as you, stinky breath can’t even swallow my own spit it so sore.
I am currently day 6 after surgery and I am regretting having it done, I am teary, blubbing on the hour every hour, tired, frustrated, short tempered, hungry. I feeel like it’s never gonna end.
I have lost the ability to blow my nose.
Hope your feeling better x

September 9, 2016 7:19 am

Hi there, I had mine ok the same day you did in Australia, and it was not until day 8 that I started to feel a bit better and was able to eat something that resembled normal food. I still have to have Panadeine in the middle of the night, but hopefully that will stop soon.

Like you I had (and still have but less so) the awful taste and breath. No one warned me about that! It makes me so self-conscious which is something I didn’t need on top of the excruciating pain.

I am going back to work after Day 13, and I am seriously hoping the taste/breath issue is resolved by then. I am eating more and more but there are still some things that really sting.

All I can say now is that I am totally exhausted from all the pain, and it has been the most excruciating and seemingly longest 2 weeks of my life. I am 39 (guy) and I don’t think I have ever cried from pain as an adult until this last week or so.

Thanks to all the contributors to this blog – it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who had suffered like this.

September 11, 2016 4:59 pm

Hiya David

I’m with you in the pain, I told my husband that the pain is worse than labour. I am on day 12 and still in pain, granted not as worse as it was and I can talk and eat better than I could. However it still hurts to yawn and I can’t blow my nose, the simple things that you don’t realise will cause you so much pain. I’m still having to take painkillers all day and still wake up in pain. The awful taste and breath has finally gone – thank god!
I’m supposed to go back to work on Thursday but I am just going to see how I am.
This has been hell but hopefully worth it!!

September 28, 2016 12:54 am


im 15 and on day three of having my tonsils and adenoids removed. It hurts so bad. Waking up multiple times at night is horrible, the pain is almost unbearable. I constantly feel like i have to swallow because my uvula (dangly thing in the back of the throat) is so large and inflamed at the moment that it feels like food.

The actual pain in my throat is bad but the pain i get in my face and neck combined with that is just hell, does anyone else experience that?

This is what medication i take for the pain:

I have ‘stop pain’ in the mornings and nights which has codeine and paracetamol in it, the liquid form tastes like rubbish but the tablet form got stuck in my throat which was not pleasant. So i think ill stick with the liquid. During the day i have 2 panadol every 6 hours but i never reach the six hours without being in immense pain which is why i have neurofen in between.

Also lamingtons feel really good on my throat.

Hope you feel better soon.

August 29, 2016 8:25 pm

I had my tonsils removed at age 26 and it was a rough recovery. Over the years one of the tonsils grew back and now at age 45, a year of chronic sore throats and laryngitis my ENT said its time to take that booger out. Shaking my head, thinking this can not be happening. At age 26 I had 2 small kids and I was a stay at home mom and I remember how much weight I lost, it truly was a time I would rather forget. Now, I have a career and I know I will be out of work for at least a week and I’m really nervous about the recovery at age 45. I’m not as young as I use to be.