Tonsillectomy | Adults

 Tonsillectomy as an Adult- What to Expect

tonsillectomy adult

Adult Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy as an adult is quite different than tonsillectomy for children. The methods employed for tonsillectomy in adults and children are generally the same, (See Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Methods page), and the risks for adults are similar to the risks for children, (See The Tonsillectomy Risks
Greg-Tooke-1024x681

Tonsillectomy – Adult Recovery and Risks

Most studies indicate a two to four percent risk of delayed hemorrhage [severe bleeding]. Where adult tonsillectomies differs most from tonsillectomy in children is in the recovery. Recovery from childhood tonsillectomy generally takes five to seven days. Recovery from  tonsillectomy in adults usually requires at least ten days and more often two weeks.

Before deciding to get an adult tonsillectomy, it’s important to choose a time frame in which you have the time and the support. Recovering over your favorite Holiday might be a good choice in terms of time, (eg holiday leave from work or school), but it may not be a time that people will be available to help you.


The pain associated with adult tonsillectomy recovery, by almost all accounts, is more intense than that experienced by children. Some theorize that children haven’t had as much time without pain as adults and thus their frame of reference is different than adult tonsillectomy patients. Others assume that children may be less able to articulate their discomfort. Having read the accounts of THOUSANDS of adult tonsillectomies in the forum,(See Tonsillectomy Forum page), I can say with some confidence that generally, the younger the patient, the easier the tonsillectomy recovery. There are of course exceptions. I’ve read from many middle aged adults who had a fairly smooth recovery. Perhaps they read up on this website and prepared well. Perhaps they had good genes.  In any case, many time an adult tonsillectomy recovery is better than the horror stories we hear about.

“If I could recommend one item to buy before tonsillectomy, it would be a humidifier. My readers know how important moist air is to a healing throat. I bought one of these years ago and still use it daily” -Greg


I’d like to take a moment here to make a suggestion. As you read through the people’s accounts in the various chat rooms, message boards, and adult tonsillectomy forums, consider this: People having a harder time, may be more prone to seek out information and share their experience in these venues. Adults experiencing milder tonsillectomy recoveries, might be less apt to be posting. I don’t want to drag Richard Nixon into my website, but this silent majority may be quietly recovering and you’ll never hear from them.
My advice is to research as much as you can, talk with your doctor, talk with your family and friends, and talk with your employer before scheduling your adult tonsillectomy. I wish you all the best.

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.

We’re Moving the Discussion to the Tonsillectomy Forums

257 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy | Adults

  1. Hi Cynthia,
    I’m 59 and I had a hysterectomy when I was 40 and tonsillectomy and ear tubes 3 weeks ago. The hysterectomy was much worse with a long recovery compared to the tonsillectomy. However, I do want to prepare you that it is no walk in the park, as you have likely discovered by reading the entries on this site. Read through everyone’s experiences and what has helped them the most to prepare yourself.

    The one thing that I highly recommend, that I was not prepared for, was the need for someone to stay with you the first couple of days. I know for sure I would have overdosed my meds if I had been alone, because the anesthesia makes you fuzzy headed and pain drives you to want more meds. So, having someone be in charge of your meds and encouraging you to hydrate would be a good thing.

    In the old days, they used to keep people in the hospital a minimum of 3 days, now they give you the boot before you’re fully awake from the surgery! Before having the surgery, stock up on popsicles, jello and Gatorade. You won’t want ice cream due to its causing the build up of phlegm and trust me, you don’t want to have to cough. It will be extremely hard to swallow. You will want to sleep in a propped up position because everything is swollen and its hard to breathe and swallow. Use a humidifier ! This is key because you will get extremely dry where you feel your throat is glued shut and will need drinks throughout the night.

    Follow all your doctor’s post op directions to the letter. Be sure you know your doctor’s after hours phone number in case you have bleeding or other concerns.

    I think sooner is better. If you wait til after Thanksgiving, then you should just wait until the New Year, so as not to mess up your Christmas festivities. It takes a long time to recover. I’m 3 weeks out and my throat is still not normal. I’ve only given up night time narcotics in the last 3 nights. I manage during the day (still) with Tylenol or Ibuprofen.

    I wish you the very best, Cynthia! Come back and tell us how you’re doing!
    Sandy

  2. I’ve have a snoring problem and it runs in my family, large tonsils so that being said since I’ve been dealing with lack of sleep the doctor recommended removing my tonsils. I am a little worried, I do have to psych myself to mentally prepare like my previous hysterectomy. Any recommendations are welcomed, like food and pain meds or whether I should do the surgery now or wait until after Thanksgiving.

  3. I am currently half way through day 4 post op and I think I am doing okay. Surgery day was the most interesting. After a few hours of being home a vain hameraged. I ended up looking like a vampire with blood pouring down my throat and out my mouth. After a trip in a ambulance to the ER, a surgeon removed the remaining clots and used silver nitrate to stop the bleeding. I stayed over night and was sent home in the afternoon. I haven’t taken anything except for panadol since leaving the hospital. The doctor said to try and bear it and then use the pain killers for when it gets bad. The problem is, I don’t know if what I am experiencing is the worst or if the worst is yet to come? I have read loads and everyone seems to be different. (I also have a strong tolerance to pain relief). I am eating warm soft foods, drinking tea and plently of water. There’s also a ton of ice blocks in the freezer that I’m working on. It is surely uncomfortable, thats for certain. But I am positive it will pay off in the long run.

    1. Its now day 9 and I am eating pasta, pizza, bread, anything really (slowly and cautiously though). I did not experience the extreme pain I have been reading about when the scabs come off. Throughout the entire period I have taken panadol every 4 hours, ate (important – I think the longer you leave it, the harder it gets), and have constantly been drinking water, and more importantly cold icey water, even though it got painful. It has been uncomfortable and frustrating for sure, but in my case, tolerable dispite my complication on surgery day. My best advise is: keep up your fluids, eat straight away, get plently of sleep however make sure you wake up for water and panadol, only take panadol regularly, use the pain killers for when it is extreme (people tend to build a tolerance after a couple of days. The pain killer kicks on after about 20min of taking it, which isn’t long to wait if the pain is bad) and make sure you have plently of time off. I am actually returning to work tomorrow, because I am ready too. I hope this helps. Remember, everyone’s experience is different. But definitely sike yourself up like I did, because the outcome was nothing compared to what I imagined in my head. Good luck!

  4. Hi,

    I’m on day 8 after my tonsillectomy, I can’t sleep, I ate last night for the first time and now I’m paying for it. I’m in so much pain. I now have a blood patch on my right tonsil. My painkillers don’t seem to work anymore either. What I find works is chewing chewing-gum sometimes! I’m not sure whether to go to the doctor or not.

    1. Laura I’m also on day 8 with s blood patch where my right tonsil was. I’m alsonin severe pain. Hang in there. I keeo reading we have to wait until at least day 10 but we are on day 8. It will all be over soon! Over half way! :)

      1. Hi Laura and Pasha. It has been a year since I had my tonsils taken out and had coblation done to my lingual tonsils. You are both over halfway there and it can only start getting better now and not any worse. Stay positive : ) I remember thinking I would never feel better and time passed so so slow but now I have never looked back. I had posted on here and reading others experiences and having support made the journey a bit more clearer in what may come. Everyone has different recoveries which is shown through the posts. I wish you both all the best in a speedy recovery now yous are on day 8 : )

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