Guerrilla Tactics for Surviving Adult Tonsillectomy


Guerrilla Tactics – Adult Tonsillectomy Tips

Adult Tonsillectomy Tips
Adult Tonsillectomy Tips

So you’ve read my top 10 tonsillectomy tips.  Good. Those will get you through. But some of us like to operate outside of the conventional. The top ten are solid pearls of wisdom that anyone can benefit from, regardless of their personality. Let’s face it- not everyone is comfortable making demands on their doctor, pharmacist, employer, or family. For those of you who are though, I offer the following guerrilla tactic adult tonsillectomy tips.

Advocating for Yourself

The cornerstone of these tips is self advocacy. By researching the internet and finding this site, you’re already ahead of the masses. Like me a few years ago, most adults go into tonsillectomy surgery like sheep. They take the information from their doctor and perhaps nurse and press forward without questioning. Sometimes this works out fine. Some ENT doc’s and their staff do a great job of preparing their patients for tonsillectomy surgery and its subsequent recovery period. Some don’t.  Some employers respect their employee’s judgement of what their needs are in regard to recovering from adult tonsillectomy. Some don’t. It’s up to us to make sure that we get what we need. Take those first 10 tips and you’ll be ahead of the pack. Take a few of these and lead it.

Work- Taking Time Off

I’ve researched the time required for adult tonsillectomy recovery. I can tell you that ten days is about the minimum. I would tell your boss that two weeks is the minimum. You may need two full weeks. You may not though. If not, you’ll look tough as nails as you come back to work ahead of schedule! If the boss gives you grief about two full weeks, refer him or her to this website. Let them read about the experiences people have. It will open their eyes the way it has yours.

Your Family- Asking for Help

This is a tough one. Most people struggle when it comes to asking for help. Get over it. You are going to be worthless for at least a week. Don’t spread yourself thin. You don’t want anyone counting on you. Have a heart to heart talk with your spouse, mother, brother- whoever might pick up the slack for you. You might be surprised. I was recently divorced with four children when I had my surgery. My ex wife and I were not on good terms. It was a jagged pill to swallow, but I asked for her help. She covered the kids for a full week and even took a nice video of a holiday concert I had to miss. Be direct. Be specific. Ask for help.

Your Doctor- Be Assertive

Here are few adult tonsillectomy tips that you won’t find in the literature in your doctor’s waiting room. They just might make your life a lot better though.


  • Ask for a steroid.  I’m not giving medical advice here.  I’m not a doctor.  When you talk to your doctor, ask for a steroid.  The first challenge most adults face after tonsillectomy is a hugely swollen uvula.  No kidding- that thing can swell up so much that it’s hard to swallow and breath. Icing can help, so can gargling with ice cold water, but a steroid will do even more.  Just ask.
  • Ask for a stool softener.  Narcotic pain medicines will constipate you.  Many people go for over a week without a bowel movement.
  • Ask for an anti nausea drug.  Those pain killers that help so much can really do a number on your system.  You won’t be eating much, so nausea is a pretty likely side effect.
  • Get an order for ENOUGH PAIN MEDICINE TO LAST THROUGH RECOVERY.  This one makes me furious.  My doctor wrote an order for enough hydrocodone to last about four days.  If you’ve read enough accounts, you know that that’s about the time the pain gets worst.  I ran out in the middle of the night.  I had to wait until morning to ask for a refill.  The staff acted like I was some drug seeking junkie.  Don’t accept this.  I finally walked into the ER.  The doctor there understood completely and thought my ENT was a jerk. He wrote a prescription to cover the next week. I did not become a drug addict.
  • Ask for your pain medicine prescription to NOT include Acetaminophen. This is a tricky one. Most narcotic pain med’s contain Acetaminophen.  That’s fine if it’s the only thing you’re taking.  But at some point, you’ll want to ween off the heavy pain killers in favor of an over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol. (Acetaminophen) Suppose you try this and BAM- not cutting it.  You’ll want to go back to the narcotic pain medicine. But wait, how much Acetaminophen do you have on board? Too much can be very dangerous.  Keeping the two separate allows you to monitor this more easily.
  • Ask for IV fluids.  Yes, why not?  A nurse on the forum suggested this and I thought it was brilliant.  So many people become dehydrated while recovering from adult tonsillectomy because swallowing is so difficult.  Knowing that she was seriously dehydrated, this brave and smart woman walked into an emergency room and asked for a bag of IV fluid.  She got it and was no longer dehydrated. You might have a conversation with your doctor about this in advance.
  • TETRACAINE MEDICATED LOLLIPOPS -I never got them but people rave about the relief they give.  Ask your Doctor.

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Well there you have it- the insider’s guide to adult tonsillectomy recovery.  You may feel like a pain asking for these things.  You may feel less pain because you do.  I wish you well.

Do you have a Jedi mind trick or ninja tactic for getting the upper hand in tonsillectomy recovery?  Please share in the comment section.  Thanks, -Greg

74 thoughts on “Guerrilla Tactics for Surviving Adult Tonsillectomy

  1. My Number 1 Tip!!!

    Buy dissolvable aspirin/ibuprofen tablets and lozenges WITH anesthetic!!!! Put 2 tablets in a glass of water, drink it all slowly and occasionally gargle, then suck on a lozenge.. when finished your throat will be completely numb for 20 minutes giving you enough time to eat whatever you want to but doesn’t give you that weird completely numb tongue feeling that the numbing liquid does. This was how I managed to survive my recovery past day 5. It even works better for me than the strong pain killers.

    Good luck with your healing!!!

    1. Don’t take anything containing aspirin, it can be very dangerous as it can cause you to bleed.

      1. I see a lot of people taking Motrin on here doesn’t that make you bleed too ?

        1. Hi Mrs Mack- doctors seem to be split on this question. One whom I trust told me it’s safe but I guess I’d recommend asking your own doc. Take care!

  2. I am EXTREMELY lucky in the fact that my father is a nurse so he brought me IVs. On day three when the pain got so bad to where I couldn’t keep drinking he hooked me up and I got three or four bags of fluids over the course of the next four days. It was a lifesaver for me and I know my recovery would have been even worse than it has been if I hadn’t gotten the fluids. I’m on day 7 right now and wishing for a time machine so I can go back to being a normal person again. I’m a group leader at a summer camp starting on Sunday (my day 10) so I’m hopeful that u can heal up in time to do my job well. At this point I’m cursing my doctor and surgeon for not preparing me like they should have, I had no idea about any of this. I was indeed a mindless sheep, thinking everything would be fine after the first 3 days like the doctor said. Don’t fall for the lies guys!!!

  3. I am on day 4 of my recovery – still in pain which I didn’t expect! However I believe my recovery is being sped up by the fact I am drinking 2-3 glasses of iced water per hour! I have been eating solid foods like bread without the crusts (which my nurse told me helps clear the scabs and prevent infection) and also soft veg like avacado. i was worried the scabs would just suddenly come off and give me a shock but apparently they just gradually fall away the more you eat. I have found pasta helpful too with just some oil drizzled on. I find the more I swallow the easier it gets each time but do keep eating to help your body in recovering! Crunching up ice and then tilting your head back so the ice rests gently on the tonsil bed is good too for when you are waiting for meds to kick in. keep resting and stay positive!

  4. I am from England and on day 4 of recovery. I stopped breathing during surgery and temporarily intubated.

    I coped with eating/drinking/meds….until today. Today the pain is horrific, I’m struggling to swallow and I’m unsure about what is right and wrong with regards to my healing.

    I have taken high quality daily photos but unsure how to post them?

    I tried eating some banana earlier and it felt like acid. The sugar in Popsicles is causing mucus. I’m feeling miserable.

    However! I’ve just remembered I had some anti- inflammatory suppositories. I never thought that would make me happy!

    1. Hi Sam! Thanks for posting. Hope your recovery goes well. If you’d like to share your photos, you can email them to me and I’ll add them to the site. I’ll post my email here for a day and then probably take it down to avoid spam bombs. lol gregtooke @ hotmail . com

      I added spaces to throw off bots.

      Thanks and take care!

      1. Hi Greg, I have been taking daily photos of my tonsils and am currently at day 8. Would you like me to email them? Will you post them on the site?

        1. Hello Rebecca -Day 8! Ouch! Hope you’re doing ok. Yes, you can email them to I’ll post them on their own page. Thanks and take care!

  5. I had my tonsillectomy April 14 2015. Im 23, F from Canada. I found this site days before my surgery, read through a lot of stories.. mostly bad.. LOL so I was scared but I felt like it prepared me for surgery, I got my humidifier up and working and a nice supply of popsicles…since I read that a lot of people couldnt handle ice cream due to it causing mucous.
    Soo I got my tonsils out.. was sent to recovery I woke up in extreme pain… the most pain ive ever been in.. .prob 8/10… I felt like I couldnt breathe because I was in so much pain. they gave me morphine (via IV) it helped immensely. I was on Tylenol 3 (Tylenol with codeine). This was my first time ever being on codeine..I honestly was in too much pain the first day which I wasnt expecting at all.. from what I heard the worst is day 4/5.. so I was scared it would get worse.. I took my pain meds as the doc advised me.. every 4 hours. I ended up taking 2 pills at a time because I couldnt handle the pain the first night/day after..the pills knocked me out every time. I was nauseous and very hungry All I had that first night was stuff that was acidic which made everything 10 x worse. I stayed away from ice cream and stuck with popsicles and gatorade…big mistake.. I had major acid reflux – and I never get heartburn or anything like that EVER. and the Tylenol wasnt helping at all. I ate solid food the day after surgery because honestly I was hungryyy. I had fries and an iced cappuccino (which helped with the acid because of the dairy content) I had no problem with mucous I also noticed I was hungry but had no appetite to eat because I was so nauseous. after the third day I stopped taking my tylenol 3’s and switched to Extra strength tylenol (2 pills at a time every 4 hours) it helped so much.. .no more nausea..and I started eating ice cream…soft food – aka mcdonalds french fries…milkshakes…nothing with acid. By the 5th day… with regular icing my neck with an ice pack i brought home from the hospital I was fine! Solid foods.. rice and chicken for dinner… I kept myself hydrated to a point.. it still hurt to swallow water but I forced myself to take regular sips of it. After 6 days I was off my pain meds and was back to eating solid foods (obviously taking my time to eat.. dinner took about an hour to eat) But yeah now its been a little over 14 days post op im completely back to normal. I also didnt notice any scabs coming off.. I havent looked in my mouth..but I havent felt anything either… Overall my recovery went very fast and overall not unbearable. after 4 days after surgery I was fine… pain controlled, I was able to eat and yeah.. this proves that everyone recovers different.. just because something works for one person that doesnt mean it will work for everyone. I hope I helped !

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