Tonsillectomy Recovery – Here’s 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.

Tonsillectomy Recovery Forum___________________________________________________________________

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.

______________________________________________________________________________ “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.

90 comments on “Tonsillectomy Recovery – Here’s What to Expect
  1. Kate says:

    ICE – LOTS OF CRUSHED ICE! Sucking on ice/drinking iced water will really help his post-op pain.
    Wrapping ice packs around the neck can also be useful
    And yes – read older posts here, they are full of great tips.

  2. Tara says:

    My son is booked to get his tonsils out this Friday morning at 6:30am. He is 19 yrs old and I am quite scared of what’s to follow afterwards? What can I do to help him heal fast? How must he sleep? What are we exactly in for? He has a 22 month old daughter that we currently help him raise and how is he going to be when he comes home? Someone please give us some advice. We know they must come out as he was rushed in twice when his throat almost closed and he has abcesses on both and they popped n bled… Please respond

    • Greg Tooke says:

      Hi Tara- It’s great that your son has your support. That’s huge. Read through as as of this site as you can. I’ve covered lots and lots of what to expect and how to recover. Be sure to have a humidifier, plenty of popsicles, enough pain medicine to cover at least 10 days, movies for him to watch, and help with his 22 month old. He’ll need it for the first week for sure!

      Best of luck to you all. He’s young- that helps.

    • Kylie Smith says:

      Hi I’m 15 years old and I had my tonsils out last Monday and I’m still trying to recover. Here are a few things I wish that I knew last week that I know now being in my second week of recovery. 1.) Take 1tsp. of Children’s Motrin and 1tsp. of Children’s Benadryl at least every 2 hours. You can even take it less than every 2 hours because the Motrin and Benadryl is meant for children and it such a low dose it won’t affect or hurt him since he’s older. Doctors recommend this to cancer patients that have pain in their throat/mouth because it coats the throat making it easier to swallow food and any beverages. I started taking these medications and I can’t live without it now. It takes 30 minutes to start working so have him take it 30 minute before he’s going to eat. It also makes you drowsy; I’ve been sleeping a lot since I’ve started using both of these medicines, which is great because it allows my throat to heal. 2.) Take stool softeners (laxatives) if he hasn’t gone to the bathroom after 4 days post-surgery day, because I’m still in much misery because I didn’t do that. Anesthesia slows the systems in your body down, it’s common not to go for up 4-5 days but after that it’s tough trying to get it working again. They will probably give you Colace at the hospital anyway. I guess what I’m trying to say is I wish I took it earlier and kept on top of taking stool softeners to prevent the pain I am in now.3.) I have been the most congested I have ever been in my entire life! I have ear and nose congestion, and it’s terrible. The ear congestion came later in my recovery, as the ear congestion came on the nose congestion went away. At the hospital they gave me Afrin a nasal spray and it didn’t work for me at all, my dad instead picked up a “Nasal Mist” from Walgreen and it’s just a typical Sodium Chloride Solution, or a Nasal Moisturizer, and I found that it worked much better than the Afrin. With the Afrin you can’t spray up your nose as frequently at you can with the Nasal Mist. What I would do is spray the Nasal Mist constantly up my nose and then blow my nose. I also would apply “Vicks Vaporub” on my upper lip. Lastly I would take the Walgreens brand Mucinex, which is the Mucus Relief, it tastes great and works amazing! Not only are the products that I talked about above perfect to help the congestion but also sleeping up right. My bed is pushed up against the wall and so I would prop 3 pillows up in the corner where my bed met the wall. This helped the most when I had my ear congestion. You mentioned that he had a 22 month old daughter, well I have 24 month old twin brothers, and they actually helped a lot surprisingly. They helped in the sense that I would interact with them as much as possible when I wasn’t sleeping or hurting too much and when they weren’t down for a nap. Sitting upright and moving around and playing with them helped keep my mind off the pain and the congestion to drain a lot easier. I also went to the grocery store with my mom which again helped a lot, by keeping my mind off the pain and helping the congestion drain a whole lot easier.4.) The hospital prescribed me hydrocodone which recommends you to take it with food, although in the middle of the night when I needed the hydrocodone I was way too tired to eat something which in turn made me extremely nauseous in the morning, the toilet and I got extremely close in the morning. I would just feel so sick to my stomach and I wouldn’t want to eat anything wich made it worse. So the doctor prescribed me Zofran which helps with the nauseous feeling, so if the hospital prescribes you with hydrocodone or any other antibiotic that may cause nauseous feelings if you take it without food than make sure you buy something that will help the nauseous feeling.5.) Make a chart or a list of every medication he takes and at what time he took it so you don’t lose track, because he may be taking a lot of medication like I am and it’s too much to remember because they all require multiple different time periods until you can take the next dose. And like my mom did she set alarm or wrote down when the next dose/medication should be taken, or else I would be in pain if I didn’t take it as soon as I possibly could. So if you can prevent his pain why not do it?Eating and drinking is so important, you are going to constantly hear this but it’s the most important thing. I lost 6 lbs. in the first week because I didn’t eat, and my dad had to explain to me why it’s so important. He said it’s the same thing as if you broke your leg, when someone breaks their leg they have to go to physical therapy because he leg hasn’t been used and it changed when the doctor worked on it so your body need to get back into the groove of things, the leg need to get back to working like it did before. Same thing with your throat they just got rid of something you’ve had in your body since you were born and now they take it away you need to exercise it back to how it was swallowing foods before.Please take everything with a grain of salt, everybody is different , what worked for me may not work for him. He is much older and probably has a much higher pain tolerance than I do, so he may be better off. Just keep in mind the surgery is worth in the end, and a few weeks of misery for a life time of better health is worth it. I expected better than it was, my aunt told me she went on a date the next day after her surgery; I expected it to be easy. The surgery seems easy, it’s not a major surgery. But its uncomfortable, painful, and seems never-ending But I’m in my second week and I’m feeling much better but not a 100%. The doctor can also prescribe you special suckers that numb your pain, but he probably won’t need it, I’m not sure. Everything will be great, best wishes! I hope this helped!

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