Tonsillectomy Recovery – What to Expect

What You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy and Recovery Day by Day

Our Latest Post: After Tonsillectomy-What Happens?

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 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 the recovery is longer and more painful. He was right about that!

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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 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 with you what I learned from my tonsillectomy experience and years of coaching others through tonsillectomy and recovery. More about tonsillectomy…read more

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November 7, 2015 7:05 am

Hi , I am 42 year old male and underwent tonsillectomy 6 days ago. I am no stranger to surgeries as I had a very bad car accident years ago and underwent 15 surgeries.
However this is by FAR the worst pain I have ever experienced. A summary:
Day 1 – Sore but bearable – ate jelly
Day 2 – More painful ate Jelly , Ice Cream and Soup
Day 3 came across this site – did some more research, at a croissant and Soup
Day 4 – Thought I was dying ….. Ate scrambled egg and soups
Day 5 – Just when I thought it was getting better – Scrambled egg , a slice of pizza and half a packet of chips (crisps)
Day 6 – The pain today was the worse I have ever felt – from the throat right into the right ear, tongue still very swollen at the back, been trying to help the white filmy stuff were the tonsils used to be go away as this makes you swallow so much.
In the country where I reside there are very strict medicine laws, so unbeknown to me the only pain med I was prescribed was Panadol Fast, 1 tablet every twelve hours, and 1 sachet of Volfast every 12 hours along with an antibiotic. After reading this site I realized why I am in so much pain. Have moved onto Ibrufen 800 1 tablet every 12 hours and the difference is unbelievable.
I hope the worst is over and the rest is healing,,,,
Great site and anyone have a tonsillectomy should read your site.
Keep it up

November 25, 2015 12:41 am

Hi..I’m a 57 yo male and had a tonsillectomy on November 5th. Today was my first day out. Unfortunately I was the lucky statistic that hemorrhages 1 hour after the operation. I really thought I was dying. Back into the OR more cauterizing and stitches. Due to the swelling and heavy bleeding I was given a traecheostomy and an inflatable Balloon inserted into my neck blocking my windpipe so I wouldn’t aspirate blood. I wound up in the hospital for 3 days and was given morphine for the pain. I’m not trying to scare anyone..but it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. The traech balloon was removed on day 15 and I’m feeling much better. My tips would be..get at least 2 solid opinions that you need them removed.
Plan on a minimum of a 2 week recovery. Drink small sips of water as much as posdible. I also used a water spray bottle with ice water alot. I also liked Pedialite ice pops for some electrolytes. I did not eat anything gor 1 full week..just liquids…and thankfully had an IV for the first 3 days. Suggest spouse sleep in separate room if at all possible cause nights are rough. I honestly would have to say if I knew before what I know own now..I would not have had the procedure.

November 11, 2015 1:30 pm

Hope you are doing better! I had mine out when I was 26 (a few years ago) and I also had had previous major surgeries. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain of this one! By day 17 I was back to myself. I don’t know if I would do it again if I had to!

Sandy D
October 10, 2015 8:32 am

The Narcotic meds will plug you up and make you miserable. Drink lots of fluids and the stool softer should help. Pain will increase. Take the Pain meds as ordered. I hate to say the worst is yet to come but you will get through it. We all did.

Oh no
October 9, 2015 5:14 pm

Day 2 after day of surgery. Pain highest yet of 5-6. Had to ice throat a couple times. Talking is difficult (so is not talking, I love to talk). Very constipated ( I tried to squeeze off a bowel movement—NOT RECOMMENDED. I’m lucky the straining didn’t cause a bleed. If you think “hey, I can push without straining”, you can’t do it when you’re plugged up. I’m getting someone to get me some stool softeners tomorrow). I’m also burping a lot– didn’t think I swallowed much air but I must have. Sometimes it hurts to belch.

Oh no
October 7, 2015 3:49 am

Wish I would have bought a wedge. Wasn’t sure what to look for, so I bought 3 body pillows. Those, along with more pillows and blankets should be enough to prop me up. I’ll find out once I come home. I hope the cat doesn’t barf on them in the meantime : ). I didn’t get a humidifier, but I’m stocked up on popsicles, powerade & gatorade, cheapy mac n cheese, instant mashed potatoes and eggs. Oh, and I have a good bit of honey…I’ll eat that, too. I have ice packs in the freeze.

Oh no
October 7, 2015 3:28 am

Surgery today. Almost 4:30 am and I’m wide awake–I’m scared. I’ll be leaving for the hospital in about four hours. I don’t like going under (who does? It terrifies me, even though I know if I don’t wake up I won’t know it anyhow, but rational thinking doesn’t help take away the anxiety) and I’m afraid of the bleeding risk. I’ll be staying overnight so that they can monitor my oxygen levels (ent thinks I might have obstructive sleep apnea–these things are large enough to cause a problem and removing them will also get rid of my recurring tonsil stones). I’m hoping I’ll be happy with the results. I’m hoping to sleep better, have more energy and have fresh breath when this is all done and I’m healed up. Good luck to everyone going through the same, especially as an adult. I wish someone would have taken these things out when I was a kid, but I didn’t get infections. They’ve been huge as long as I can remember. Besides the likely worse recovery, I’ll have to worry about adult things like money. Oh well, it’s getting taken care of now. Better late than never. Take care, everyone! You aren’t alone.

October 5, 2015 3:32 pm

My husband is having his tonsils out this week. He cant take the recommended amount of time off of work. He has a VERY high pain tolerance. Has anyone had there tonsils out as an adult and had it be relatively easy?

October 2, 2015 12:14 pm

My name is Elly and I’m 23 years old from Canada. I have lived with substantially enlarged tonsils for my entire life – think…a good sized cherry, each tonsil. I had my adenoids removed when I was in the first grade and was qualified to have my tonsils removed at the same time. Unfortunately, they did not remove my tonsils and to this day we don’t know why. Over my life I’ve dealt with recurring throat infections of every kind you can imagine. When I caught mono, my tonsils swelled large enough to close my throat to the point at which I couldn’t eat, drink or take pain medication (or breathe through my mouth). This lasted over a month. At my present time typing this I am getting ready to visit the doctor for antibiotics for what I believe is my 4th tonsillitis infection this year, possibly more but really who’s counting anymore. I also suffer from severe tonsil stones and difficulty sleeping.

In my appointment today I am going to request again to look at the option of having my tonsils removed. I have been turned down 3 times already as doctors in my area seem to be of the opinion that tonsillectomy’s do more harm than good and are no longer necessary. I have been told that the benefits of having them removed do not justify the risks involved. In one specialist appointment where I was trying to leverage the difficulties I experience with tonsil stones, he examined my tonsils and told me “I don’t see any crypts – it can’t be that bad.” Let me tell you, any layman can see that not only do my tonsils have crypts, they are so large they have HOLES, no matter how hard I work on maintaining my oral hygiene I can’t avoid the crypts filling because they are so large.

As soon as I start seeing the infection on my tonsils, which is usually before the pain starts, I get depressed because I know what it is coming and I feel so helpless so difficult to get a surgery that could feasibly change my life for the better. I have an adverse reaction to the amoxicillin for the tonsillitis, for which I have to take further antibiotics, so in all every time I get sick I am on antibiotics for almost a month. I get sick so often, that means I’m on antibiotics for almost half of the year. I don’t understand how this is viewed as a better alternative to surgery.

I guess my question is, has anyone else had this hard of a time trying to convince a doctor to remove their tonsils and if so, what did you do? Did you end up getting it? How? I just can’t live like this anymore. If I was qualified to have them out when I was younger, why not now? Especially after the last 15+ years of complications!

Thank you,

October 22, 2015 12:58 am

Go to ENT and be there as a cash patient. It cost less than $2000. Have all lab work under your regular insurance. See your primary care physician to order all lab work. This will save you some.

My ENT is very good and this is very routine to him. He is out of the network and so I went there as a cash patient. He has his own clinic complete with operating room and recovery room and close to a big hospital few hundred feet away. I live in Southern California.

Just like you under my HMO insurance, They were just giving the run around.

October 29, 2015 10:14 pm

I don’t know if this is something you can do in Canada because we don’t have private healthcare. I haven’t heard of anyone trying this. Everything goes through your GP. I am switching GP’s…maybe I will bring this up.

September 30, 2015 4:21 pm

Just had tonsillectomy on the 23rd, so today is my 7th day. The pain is reasonably tolerable compared to what it’s been for the last 6 days. Nights are the worst, I would wake up crying in pain. No amount of water helped at night because even a short 30 minute nap dried my throat out so much it felt like I was swallowing acid. I would set my alarm for every 2 hours days 2-6 to wake up, drink water, get a fresh ice pack. That helped. I usually always woke up before the alarm in pain. I’m telling you people, get a million ice packs. Seriously. Stock your freezer. I can’t tell you how much they helped me. They helped with the debilitating ear pain, throat pain, sore neck, sore jaw, everything. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for one to re-freeze, so buy a ton!
Make sure you invest in ear plugs too. Something about the pressure being put on my ears relieved the pain dramatically. When I knew I had to swallow, but it hurt very bad too, I would plug my ears and it helped to dull the pain.
If you think you’re going to sit back, read a couple books, catch up on a few seasons of your favorite tv shows, you are mistaken! The pain meds make you so drowsy and unable to concentrate I can hardly get through an episode without passing out.
I have absolutely zero appetite whatsoever. The first two days, I ate Mac and cheese and instant potatoes without too much fuss. Now, the smell of them is nauseating, along with pretty much everything else. Fruit smoothies burn, pudding is too thick, everything tastes just a little off. I haven’t eaten much of anything in the past few days, and if I force myself to have a cup of smoothie or anything else I usually end up extremely nauseous for a couple hours until it’s time to vomit and get it out of there. Most of the goods I bought pre-op I haven’t even touched; artificially flavored cheap-o Popsicles are about the only thing I can choke down besides water and some very soft bread with lots of butter.
At times, I felt like I was an idiot for having the surgery. I couldn’t even swallow my spit for the first 6 days without writhing in pain! I broke down to my boyfriend multiple times in a crumpled sobbing mess on the floor. But people, IT GETS BETTER. IT IS WORTH IT. I’m only on day 7 and I finally have enough energy to write this without falling asleep halfway through.
When you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you can! Grab an ice pack, ice water, your ear plugs and pain medicine and let yourself heal! It sucks. It is terribly painful, but I know never having to deal with strep, tonsillitis, pharyngitis or tonsil stones again is going to be so incredibly worth it.
Thank you so much… Read more »

Keri-Anne Bradley
November 6, 2015 6:27 am

Hi Molly,
I read a lot about tonsillectomies before I had mine done and it’s fair to say it really freaked me out. I had them removed 3 days ago and nothing could’ve prepared me for the absolute agony I’m in. As you said, so much so I really regret having them removed at this moment in time. I break down at least 4 times a day because the pain is so bad and no amount of pain killers seems to numb it.
I’ve tried everything. Ice cold water, ice pops, ice cubes, ice packs, yogurts etc. But I can’t even swallow water at the moment.
Your post has made me feel a bit better in that I’m praying this doesn’t last for much longer.
Is there anything else you would recommend to do post-op to make it as painless as possible?

November 7, 2015 10:47 pm

I’m on my 12th day of recovery and I’m feeling much better. Your wound is not fully heal so I would recommend drinking cold! Cold is your best friend and if you decide to eat soup recommend warm NOT HOT. Until you’re fully recovered. I would say 3 weeks to play safe but do small amount as you go. The worst pain for me is 4-6 day and 10th day. The pain medication help and yes, it does cause our body to feel drowsy, dizzy and weak. The pain does increase at night, I’ll take my pain medication and then my lollipop to help it numb quick. Do move around a Lottie bit once in awhile to keep your body flowing. I would stand for 30 minutes or sit outside it get some fresh air then go back to bed. I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere to the car and if you do, somewhere close by. I’ll get car sick and my body wouldn’t feel so good due to the medication. Good luck on your recovery

November 6, 2015 7:00 am

Keri-Anne – day 5 is often about the worst, so focus on getting to day 6 and beyond. it WILL get better soon. Try a hot water bottle to relax the tension in your throat – this helped me in days 10+ but might be worth trying now. And try to distract yourself with films or TV. Melting crushed ice in your mouth is probably the best way to get some hydration and numb the pain (also to provide some numbing before you swallow pain meds) Good luck!

September 29, 2015 10:35 pm

Sara, I am 34 yrs old and I had my tonsillectomy last Nov. I fought with strep 4-6 times a year. I will tell you that things are different for me not having them. I haven’t been sick since. It has done me well. It is a horrible 2 weeks but if I’d known the pleasure from it I would of done it years ago. I am very happy so far that they are out. I dealt with strep constantly my whole life and it is amazing not to have it. I know your son is young and it’s a hard decision for you to make, but it has been a miracle for me so far. Hope this helps a little, but just consult your ENT and hope you make the right decision. Good luck to you and your son!

October 1, 2015 12:28 am

Gary, thank you very much for your feedback. Much appreciated. I feel it’s best to have them removed for my son. Thank you.