Tonsillectomy Recovery Recommendations

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

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.

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

Tonsillectomy recovery forum

Deciding to get a tonsillectomy as an adult

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

Comments

  1. I am a 21 year old female due to have my tonsils and adenoids out on Tuesday. My ent insists that I have the cold steel method and I was wondering about the recovery for this specific type of removal as there are not many stories specifying what type of removal. I am terrified for the recovery as I have a super high tolerance to pain medication. After informing my ent of this he said he was going to give me a norco pain patch as well as Vicodin (which has never worked in the past) and a norco anti inflammatory. If anyone had some insight on this I would be more than happy to hear as I am terrified for what’s to come. I and supposed to move into my apartment at college only a week after the procedure.

    • Sloan – you are young and should recover relatively quickly, but change your college apartment plans! You will NOT be fit enough to move into your apartment within a week. Take this pressure off yourself BEFORE your surgery and give yourself a few more days to rest and recover. Good luck!

      • unfortunately I don’t have the option to change it kim ;( but luckily i have great friends and family that are doing all the moving for me. all i have to do is drive there. i already packed everything so it is all ready to be loaded up.

  2. Im 18 and had my Tonsillectomy 4 days ago via coblation. I don’t want to sound like a wimp as I’m sure there are plenty of people recovering who feel a lot worse than me and I know its only day 4. However, Im feeling really depressed, I hate nothing more than mooching around the house all day/all night and my friends don’t seem to understand the severity of the operation and the recovery as they are asking me to come out and join them at the pub most evenings. In addition to all this I start my first year of university in a little over a week, will I feel normal by then? I know that I still need to take care of myself and that freshers week is probably off the cards. But will the ear ache stop and will I be able to eat by then. HELP PLEASE! I want my tonsils back!!!

  3. I’m 27 years old and had both my tonsils and adenoids removed due to tonsil stones. Although my primary care physician said and I quote “I’ve seen worse” (implying he didnt think I should do it), my ENT specializes in this sort of thing and he felt it would be a wise choice. I knew it had to be done when he said it could get worse as I got older. So I had my tonsils and adenoids removed 10 days ago. Day 1 was alright cause I didn’t get any nausea from the anesthesia. Not saying it wasn’t painful to swallow, but no nausea is a big help! So Days 2-5 was painful but hydrocodone helped with that. I also found using an ice pack, and crushing my meds( mixed with cranberry juice to reduce chalky taste) to be helpful. Oh and I ended up taking medication to prevent nausea because of the side effects from the hydrocodone. Being stuck in the house all day was making me feel worse so I took short walks after day 4. I was waking up every 15-30 minutes to drink water or suck on ice chips. I also took hot showers because the humidity would help ease the pain. Sleeping on a recliner was the best thing I could’ve done ; every time I would lay flat, I’d swear I was swallowing my uvula, my tongue, my teeth, you name it! I just couldn’t breathe! It wasn’t until day 5 that I could actually eat, even though I still couldn’t enjoy the food. I ate boiled eggs, jello, pudding, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese. I even tried the soft part of bread. Yes, I ate. But it was a VERY limited amount of food. There’s only so much pain a person could handle. Days 6 and 7 the pain was a little bit more tolerable and I slept more through the night despite some ear pain ( mine wasn’t as bad as some people mentioned) . Sometimes eating cold food or drinking cold fluids would sting my throat, which made me think the scabs were starting to come off but I’m not sure. Anything with sugar, acid, or salt was pretty painful so try avoiding those types of foods. Day 8 was by far the worst for me. I was still taking my medications and could hardly eat because everything stung my throat so I became extremely fatigued and nauseated. I even lost color to my face! I decided to try a humidifier that night and I think it was pretty helpful. I continued to walk after meals to help with the nausea from the medications and drank Gatorade for hydration but the nausea was BAD. I almost took myself to the hospital because of it. Later on day 9, I went a few hours without any pain So I ate an ice cream Sunday thinking my throat would handle it, but boy was I wrong. It gave me lots of sharp pains and I woke up with phlem that was almost impossible to get rid of the next day. Day 8 was actually when I starting gagging because I could feel the scabs hanging in the back of my throat. I spit up some of them with some phlem. YUCK. I thought the bad part was over but gagging because of the scabs was just it for me. If I would’ve known I would’ve been nauseous most of the time and getting gagged by scabs, I may have thought more about taking this surgery! Anyway, the ENT put me on steroids to help the swelling and I guess to make it heal faster.

    Today, I ran out of anti nausea pills so I took one of my moms reglan pills after confirming with the ENT , and it felt like a bomb was dropped in my stomach. It was another BAD IDEA. The Good news is that I made it to my appointment regardless of my stomach issues and was told by my ENT that everything was going great, and I could eat anything I want except for any sharp foods that could scratch my throat , like chips. The bad news is that he told me I have one more week to get gagged by scabs! Ughh. Good luck to everyone who is taking this surgery or is going through it. I hope it’s all worth it.

  4. Writing about my 19 year old daughter. Today is Day 5 (with tonsillectomy on Day1). Her pain meds, percocet, are making her nauseous, sleepy, itchy, dizzy, and causing her to have absolutely no appetite. She tried taking only extra strength tylenol yesterday, but the pain became too intense. We have a script for hydrocodone-acetaminophen 7.5-325 that the ENT gave her during the week before her procedure. She wants to switch from percocet to the hydrocodone to see if she tolerates it better. What do you think? Is it okay to keep switching it up until she finds an acceptable balance between pain management and side effects?

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