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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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!!

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.

August 24, 2016 10:17 pm

I am a sixteen year old female. I am on day 2. i got my surgery august 23rd at 12:45 p.m. it is currently august 24th 11:10p.m. my pain has been alright. i take my meds around the clock. but the worst thing is i was so tense going into surgery that now my body hurts so bad. the things that help me is warm baths and it feels great having ice on my chest and throat. some say that ice cream and dairy products hurt because they cause mucus but honeslty the little mucus it has called covered the scabs and made it better. sherbert is definetly my go too. so far i have had 6 bowls of sherbert and one of ice cream. my family had really been helping. get lost of sleep and sit up because others you uvula is already swollen and if i lean forward enough it will come out of my mouth. keep these things with you: tissues (or toilet paper)- for spit, your meds, an ice packs, a cold drink (sip on the constantly), puke bags ( just in case), a laptop, a phone, chargers, a humidifyer, and finally something for trash. i have to say it sucks. the worst part was waking up after surgery. i feel the worst when i first wake up but the humidfyer will help. i want a froster from circle k but all the circle k’s that are close to me have shut down their machines. i missed my best friends birthday party too. but i believe that by the end it will be worth it. just take it easy even on the good days otherwise the next day you will regret it.