Tonsillectomy Recovery | What to Expect

What You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy and Recovery

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!

Deciding to get a Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy Recovery Time

A support resource for tonsillectomy patients & 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 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. 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

 Together we are stronger. Please share your questions, advice, fears, and concerns in the comment section below.

287 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery | What to Expect

  1. Janet

    52 yr female. dealing with tonsil stones for many years. Everyday I use popsicle stick to try and dislodge stones. I’ve seen 4 ENT over the years and discussed tonsillectomy, but have been too nervous to go forward. I have read a lot of posts about patient recover and I’m wondering what type of procedure did people choose and if one is better than another.
    Cold Knife
    I’m not even sure what they are and if there are more and what ENT’s use which one. All very confusing!! I would love to know how the procedures effected results and recovery. thanks for your help.

      1. Janet

        Thank You Greg for your quick response and for this website you created. Its the only one I have found that addresses adult tonsillectomy. I have anxiety issues when trying to make decisions like this and the tips you have for preparing yourself with the items needed for a easier recovery are greatly appreciated. If you do further research on this subject I would be interested to know if the people that had a easier recovery had smaller size tonsils, less severe throat issues before surgery (Less scarring from throat infections) and of course the type of surgery used. Thank you again, you and the others on this site are very helpful to all us scaredy cats!

    1. Kate

      hi Janet – I am a 47 year old female and had tonsillectomy due to tonsil stones last September; no idea what method (didn’t realise there was more than one – not sure my surgeon would have given me a choice anyway!).

      The first two weeks of recovery were really quite horrible BUT I had no complications, and am now tonsil stone free, which was revolutionised my life – no bad breath, no constant digging to remove them. I have so much more self confidence as a result.

      So your biggest decision is not which method, but IF you want to put yourself through what can be a nasty recovery to be rid of them forever. Good luck!

      1. Janet

        Thank you Kate, I’m glad to hear from someone that was happy they made the decision to go for it. Also the fact that your not like a teenage boy makes your story more relevant and encouraging for me. would be interested to know if they used the coblation technique on you. My issues are mostly the tonsil stones not really strep throat problems was that your case too? Thanks for responding to my post you have helped me by telling your success story.


    I am up to day 20 and am a lot better then what I was. I thought it was never going to end!! I still have a gross matalic taste in my mouth whenever I eat or drink things now which I’m praying will go away. I was admitted back to hospital because my pain was excruciating and I could not swallow or eat anything. They gave me steroid injections to make the swelling go down but also they gave me a script for this pink looking jelly medicine called lidocaine viscous, I’m telling you know it was the best thing ever! It numbed my whole throat and mouth and took away the ear pain. I could drink after that. Although it only lasts a few hours when you have it you feel although you don’t even have the pain. I was the worst when it came to this, every day I was crying and pleading for it to end, I had no sleep for a week or so because it hurt but once I got this stuff I pretty much depended on it because it helped so much. It is a bit pricey if you get a script and go to the chemist but completely worth it!! Just know it will end to! I thought I was never going to be able to eat again, but the days come where it slowly wears off. I’m still struggling with the horrible metallic taste, and I can’t yawn which is killing me haha. But I was nowhere near what I was two weeks ago!!

  3. Madison m

    I forgot to ask in another question I posted, I keep feeling I need to cough or clear my throat and I was told not to do so. I haven’t tried eating anything yet except a Popsicle that made my mouth swell so I will not be going back to that. I have tried water and ice chips and nothing is helping. Any suggestions?

    1. hannah

      I found warm drinks helped sooth my throat. I drank so much tea. It helped keep my throat lubricated and didn’t hurt like cold things. In the UK we are told to eat rough foods to promote healing and get the muscles working. good luck. Remember, this is temporary and it WILL get better.

  4. Nevena

    I had my Surgwry feb 19 and I must admit possibly the worst pain I have ever experienced . The first day wasn’t too bad but the days after got worse and worse I stopped taking my morphine because it was making me super nauseas and dizzy. Have not had much to eat other then Apple sauce and ice cream. Today is end of day 5 I managed to have some soup today but still very hard to swallow soup even water. I can’t wait for all of this to be over and done with! Even started asking myself why I did this but hopefully gets better and is worth all the pain at the end of it all.

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