What to Expect After Tonsillectomy Surgery

Tonsillectomy recovery

Tonsillectomy Recovery Tip

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!

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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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624 Comments on "What to Expect After Tonsillectomy Surgery"

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May 25, 2016 9:25 am

I’m now on Day 13, have been off vicodin since Day 10. Used ice packs & cool mist humidifier religiously first 8 or so days. Have been drinking fluids consistently since Day 1, managed to eat some sort of food every day (not just jello), hit peak pain end of Day 6. I’ve been getting up and going for short walks pretty much the past 5 days. I feel pretty good – but I don’t think my scabs have come off yet. Is that normal?

May 22, 2016 6:05 pm

Hi all,

I am a 24 year old male and had a tonsilectomy on 5th May in London under the NHS. I am a teacher and knew I would need 2 weeks off to recover. Operation went fine and after some dry toast they let me out. I wasn’t given any pain killers just a spray for my throat and told to take paracetamol and ibruprophen… Mistake.

The following day I was on the train to Scotland to recover at my parents which was fine, I even managed to eat a sandwhich! However at night and the following 2 days I realised how much I should have demanded painkillers before I left the hospital. I ended up at out of hours in tears before getting the 30/500 co-codamol (fizzy tablets too!) and liquid ibuprofen. Took a day to kick in but I was then feeling fabulous and eating again, so long as I took every 5 hours!

I was recovering so well, and even made plans to see some friends on day 12 in preperation to go back to work when I noticed some blood in my mouth. I kept an eye and realised it wasn’t stopping – so off to A&E I went! I was given some hydrogen peroxide to gargle with when it finally stopped. I was then seen by an ENT dr who was concerned that secondary bleeding has happened so late on so I was admitted for 12 hours observation – as after the dr left and I was admitted to a ward (plastics as no room on ENT) the bleeding started again… This was 12pm at this time and by 6pm I hadn’t stopped bleeding. Dr’s then rushed me into an emergency operation to stop the bleeding… Resulting in new scabs forming and an overnight stay!

I am now on day 18 from operation 1; day 5 from operation 2 and have been signed off for another 2 weeks. Although I am eating again to almost normal (still can’t eat anything hot) and slowly coming off pain killers I have zero energy. Was taken to the shops and after 30 mins I needed a 3 hour nap!

If you are worried about this operation, or if I can give anyone any advice – ensure you have an adequate supply of strong pain killers. I’m 6ft4 and over the counter medicine barely touched me. In terms of the bleeding, dr’s assured me that it’s extremely rare to bleed so late on in the game – but acknowledged that it happens (1% chance). So if you are unlucky like me I feel your pain.

I have now exhausted Netflix, finished a colouring in book and making my family laugh at my voice breaking yet again!

May 21, 2016 5:21 pm

I in Sydney Australia and 18 years old, just had my tonsils/ adenoids removed and am on day 6 of recovery. This is the worst pain I have ever experienced. As with most people my first couple days were good and I was eating tinned peach on day 1! On day 4 the real pain started to reveal itself, and every day since I have thought it can’t be worse than the last but OH YES it can be. Night times are awful I wake up with a dry throat and it feels like swallowing razor blades when I try to swallow/ sip water. I’ve been trying different pain meds but seems my pain keeps outdoing the relief each time. Can’t wait until this is over. My only advice is to know what you’re in for before this surgery and to try get onto solid foods ASAP because it helps with healing and cleaning the wounds. Praying that the worst is nearly over.

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