Tonsillectomy Adult – What to Expect

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

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Tonsillectomy – Adult Recovery and Risks

Most studies indicate a two to four percent risk of delayed hemorrhage [severe bleeding]. Where tonsillectomy in adults 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.

Tonsillectomy Adult
Tonsillectomy in Adults

“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.

502 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy in Adults

  1. I’d like to share my recent tonsillectomy experience for those of you who are nervous. I was either very lucky or did all the right things because I had very little “intense/sharp” pain during any portion of the recovery process and I am now in week 3 post-op.

    For context, I am 30 and in good health. I got the surgery after my daughter brought several illnesses home from daycare in the past year, and every one of them gave me a major pain in the neck- well, tonsils- and I was having almost daily tonsil stones.

    I had the surgery at noon on day 0, and was hooked up to an IV the rest of the day. For dinner I had soup. Days 1-3 I got the instructions to gargle at least 10 times a day with chamomile drops, and I was given 3 Ibuprofin-level painkillers a day to take a half hour before eating. I was able to eat soft bread and mashed potatoes. Days 1-3 I was sore, but it was tolerable. I was drinking water constantly and even set my alarm every hour of the night so that my throat didn’t dry out. I think this was the key to a very tolerable recovery.

    Days 4-6 I was the most sore, especially early in the morning. There was one afternoon on post-op day 5 that I was so sore I could barely swallow water, but there was never a sharp or terrible pain. All 3 days I was able to eat various bland but solid foods- cheese pizza, pasta, breakfast cereal.

    This was also the only time a piece of the scabs came off that was big enough to spit out. The white scabs came off very gradually over about 10 days. I continued to gargle and drink several liters of water a day at this point, and I think it really helped to make the recovery easier.

    By the second week I was only taking 1-2 painkillers a day, and now at week 3 I am off the painkillers completely and the scabs are completely gone. There is still a slight soreness/lump in my throat but I can talk with ease.

    Overall, a very smooth process. As long as you hydrate as much as possible and take your bed rest seriously, you should be OK!

    1. Thank you very much for sharing your. I am really nervous especially because I have two kiddies at home and they quite busy. But daddy did hands on and helps. I have had 3 ops under the knife. Did OK but the pain was bad. Thank you again

  2. I just turned 60, it’s been almost 3 weeks and my throat is still swollen which makes it difficult to swallow. I don’t think my scabs have come off yet because I can still feel something in the back of my throat. I’m starting to get a little nervous but the Dr. said it would be another week, I hope he’s correct I’m getting tired of not eating normal things.
    Not to scare anyone but wow was that the worst thing I have ever been through.

  3. ever so greatful for these tips!!

    I am 23 I have my tonsils removed 6 weeks ago. First surgery and first time under aesthetic and every time I told someone I was going for the surgery people would say “Oh I hear it’s extremely painful when your older”. So I took to google!! NOT THE BEST OPTION!! I came across a number of articles confirming how painful it would be then came across this which gave me ways of dealing with the aftermath. I bought a humidifier (a god sent!) Prevented my throat from drying up when I slept (which was a lot post op) I bought everything off the shopping list which was so helpful. My experience of the surgery was rough I was nervous going under but woke up fine had some bleeding during surgery but was told it was normal for my age. I did catch a chest infection which is common under anaesthetic apparently. Eat was rough I woke quiet flemy so dairy products were a no go my temp was also quiet high so I was advised to avoid most soft things like custard, ice cream, smoothie and yoghurts as the nurse said they would curdle in my mouth (I listened and didn’t try them) eggs were my go too. High in protein to help my recovery and toast to remove the grit and scar tissue. I didn’t have any bleeding post op but I did have a 48hour vomit and diarrea stint which turned out to be to much pain relief and not enough food!! This and my chest infection slowed my recovery tremendously and I was a good 8 days bed bound before I could move about the house unaided. I was super prepared for everything I read about expect the pain. I cannot describe it was 10 times worse then any pain I had during a stint of tonsilities but I was told by my gp that this was due to the coughing from the infection and the large surface area of scar tissue from surgery. If there’s any advice I ca give for people going under is visit your gp before surgery and ask advice on pain relief post op and then work it out on a 2 hourly bases and set alarms during the night. My nurse in hospital did up a pain management rota based on my height and weight and I was still very uncomfortable for a good 2 weeks but I’m sure it would have been worse with less pain management. Soluble pain relief worked best for me I found and a good supply of cold water.

    Hope this helps anyone!

  4. Im atill in revovery from my tonsilectomy will be hitting 3 wks come Tuesday, this is due to getting a infection within the 1st week of having them removed, i experienced really bad pain but seeing as im a 46yrs old woman was informed the older u are tge more.painful how truse thus is i dont know, all i can offer for advise is don’t expect speedy recovery and make sure u do some homework before your op ..most painful t8mes 1st thing in the morning and last thing at night painful to swollow . On the positive note pleased i f8nally had it done no more issues is what im looking forward to after over 15 20 yrs of tosulitis quincys dore throats ect .

  5. I am 40years old and finally removed my tonsils after years of sore throats and lengthy colds. I was terrified of the procedure, but I was one of the lucky ones. I ate crushed ice and frozen sorbet and kept ice packs on my throat/ neck constantly. I gargled often with salt water and sometimes saltwater with a couple drops of listerine (breath is so bad with scabs). I also had a humidifier on full blast. I really think this made a difference. Days:
    1-3: sore throat, but able to eat scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and soft food. Liquid Tylenol only.
    4-5: slightly worse, eggs and ice water for food. Had to start the real pain meds.
    6-7: very sore, jello and ice water only. Took painkillers every 4hrs.
    8-10: started back to work. Painkillers am and bed time, but otherwise Tylenol. Back to eggs and chicken noodle soup. Only had energy for work and then to bed.
    11-14: careful with food, but feeling much better. Tylenol only. Scabs rubbing off.
    15-17: feeling really good. No meds. Gargling constantly to try to get the scabs to rub off and get breath back to normal. Uvula back to normal size.
    Overall, 2 weeks of downtime, but so happy to have this behind me.
    Best of luck to all of you. Not easy, but manageable. Keep throat cold and wet and stay on top of pain meds.

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