What to Expect After Tonsillectomy
Post-op, you’ll probably awake in a different room from the one you were first brought to. This recovery room is where the staff will observe to to see that you aren’t having complications from anything from bleeding to reactions to the anesthesia. You might be given something soft to eat, like gelatin. Depending on where you live, you will most likely be released that same day, once the staff deems you fit to leave. After being under anesthesia, you will not be allowed to drive. An adult will have to take you home.
Post Op: Tonsillectomy Medicines
You’ll probably have two medicines prescribed when you leave the hospital; a pain killer like percocet or hydrocodone, and an antibiotic like penicillin. You may also want to ask for a stool softener. The narcotic pain killers can have a profound constipating effect. Another post tonsillectomy medicine that might be beneficial is an anti nausea drug like promethizine. It can help counteract this side- effect of the pain medicine. Finally, ask your doctor about a steroid to reduce swelling. One of the first things you’ll fight with after tonsil surgery is a swollen uvula. Swallowing can be almost impossible with that inflamed thing swelling up like a punching bag.
Some tips for the first days after surgery
Begin icing the throat area immediately. This reduces swelling and makes drinking precious fluids more tolerable. Just do it, and keep doing it. Have a comfortable recliner set up. Lying flat can make breathing difficult and seems to aggravate the throat area. Be sure to have a humidifier or vaporizor to keep the air moist. If possible, have someone stay with you for those first days. You may think post tonsillectomy will be a great time to catch up on reading. It probably won’t. The medications make it a little tough to concentrate. Watching movies is probably going to be more enjoyable as you recover.
Don’t continually look at your throat. It will look awful. Here’s an example:
Many people become obsessed with how the area looks. Let it go. As long as you’re not having alot of bleeding, it’s probably fine.
Pain After Tonsillectomy
Most adults describe the first day or two after surgery as, “the honeymoon.” “This isn’t so bad!” This is partly because you’ll still have some of the general anesthesia in your system. Things typically get worse days two and three. From there, the pain will ebb and flow, with days seven and eight often being the worst.
The best advice I can give about managing pain after tonsillectomy is as follows: Stay hydrated. take pain medicines on a strict schedule. Run a humidifier. Ice the affected area often. Try to stay positive and keep your mind on other things. There is a strong psychological component to pain. Sleep with your head elevated. Keep Drinking Water!!
What to look out for
The top risk post tonsillectomy is bleeding. Some bleeding is normal. Gargling with cold water will usually stop the bleeding. If it does not, and you find more than a couple tablespoons of blood, it’s time to get to an emergency room. Don’t panic- this can easily be treated, but time is important. Get in. Get it fixed.
Another problem after tonsillectomy is oral thrush. Largely due to the antibiotics you may be taking. A white film and soreness on the tongue are usually a sign that you have thrush. Some have luck eating probiotics like yogurt. Others report that a tongue scraper helps. I recommend calling your doctor’s office.
A side effect many don’t anticipate, or even realize they are experiencing, is depression. Prolonged use of pain medicines and the subsequent withdrawal from them, can have a chemically depressing effect on a person. Likewise days and days of pain, poor sleep, and poor diet, can also wear a person down.
Tonsillectomy Recovery Time
One of the most common questions is, “how long will it take to recovery from an adult tonsillectomy?” Well, it varies. I’d recommend taking two full weeks off from work. You may feel well enough to return to work sooner, but you may not. Informal surveys that I’ve conducted indicate an average tonsillectomy recovery time for adults to be about 10 or 11 days.
Longer Term- What to expect weeks and months post-op
As your throat heal, one of the first things you’ll notice is a change in your sense of taste. This is very common and can last from two weeks to to several months. It almost always returns to normal though.
The other thing you’ll probably notice after your throat has done most of its healing is a loose feeling back there. It’s almost as if there isn;t quite a tight seal between the back of the nostrils and the throat. again, this is normal. It can take several months for all of this tissue to firm back up, but it will.
Finally, you’ll probably have a much better life after your tonsillectomy. Depending on your reasons going into the surgery, you will most likely sleep better, get sick less, and have better breath!
Best of luck to you. Please explore the rest of this site for more in-depth descriptions, as well as personal stories and photos from readers.
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-Greg My short bio