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.

293 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery | What to Expect

  1. MyEsha

    Hello all. I got my Tonsillectomy 3/5/15. After surgery I was given ginger ale and ice chips before I came home. So far so good? I mean I’m staving but I’m at least able to swallow water and my liquid Vicodin that tastes horrible. I have been nauseated alot today being the second day and the anesthesia im assuming wearing off. I drink as much water as I can but the ice chips are soooo much more better. It’s certainly 1 a.m and I’m munching on them as I type. I am prepared for the worst but expecting the best for all these blogs I’ve read about the daily changes. I’ve happy to have had those nasty tonsils out and will post back on my updates. Stay well and very hydrated people!

  2. Floris

    I got mine out on 3/2/2015 (3 days ago)
    And it’s doable for me. I can only eat when my pain meds are fully working (2,5 hours after taking) and still nowhere near painfree, but it’s okay. And these are warm foods, like: overoiled pastas or some soup. The real pain for me is when i have to eat a ice lolly or drink ice water. Or whenever i’m in between meds which suck so bad. But for the rest, it’s really not too bad. The worst part was when i had to throw up the all the old blood i swallowed during and after the procedure. But for everybody whose experience is worse than mine i have one tip, DON’T FORGET TO DRINK WATER AT NIGHT! I forgot it yesterday and waking up this morning was pretty painfull and i took me a full day to get my throat hydrated again.

  3. Kiara

    *Got a tonsillectomy 2/23… 3/5 there is still a lot of pain. I have a high tolerance for pain, but I’m chugging pain meds every three hours. Everything hurts, head, gums, neck, under tongue, roof of mouth, have minimal desire to eat (if I’m not doped up I can’t) because it’s often excruciating to swallow, waking up at night is awful. I can only hope it’s worth it because I had no idea the pain would last so long, and cold foods make it WORSE for me. Warm foods, and drinks are most soothing. I damn near want to cry, and I didn’t cry during childbirth! I have no tips other than get it done sooner than later, make sure you have lots of help if you have kids, you’ll need at LEAST two weeks off work, drink as much as you can after you take your pain meds cus it will be hard to get fluids in, get lots of rest. I was hoping to get pain relief alternatives between meds… So far nothing. Good luck!

  4. Angie

    Ok, so i’m writing here, because my doctor wants me to see an ENT due to large tonsils. I’m scared as heck after reading all the “internet stories”. I do not take pain well, nor pain medication. I do feel a sensation in my throat like something is stuck, but besides that I don’t really have any problems. My question, has any one had there tonsils taking out due to enlarged tonsils? I do not want to get them out at all, but of course if I have to what choice do i have

    1. Anna

      If you are ok with them then it’s your right to keep them. I am recovering from having mine removed on 2/20/15 and then being life flighted on 3/1/15, yes that is only a couple of days ago, to have cauterization done because of a bad bleed. I was sick all of the time and if the problem is solved from this then it will have been worth it. But right now, thinking that my husband and 4 young kids could have ended up without me, makes me really question it. A lot of people recover well, but the pain is no joke and you will have to stay on top of the pain meds. No matter what, the choice to have your tonsils removed or not is yours. No one can force you into a decision. Best of luck!

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