Tonsillectomy

After Tonsillectomy- What to Expect


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:

After Tonsillectomy

AfterTonsillectomy

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. ┬áProlonged use of pain medicines and the subsequent withdrawal from them, can have a chemically depressing effect on a person. ┬áLikewise 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.

-Greg

36 thoughts on “After Tonsillectomy- What to Expect

  1. annie

    You should ask if they are taking part or all of your uvula. Mine was removed when i had my tonsillectomy, as my surgeon said it would definitely cause sleep apnea.
    The difference I notice sleeping now is amazing!!!

  2. angela

    hi everyone!
    i have some questions and i may sound stupid but i really need answers.
    will the operation will stop the snoring and the sometime not breathing during sleep?

  3. Jenni

    You have a wealth of information, THANK YOU! I do have a question, that may sound dumb but here goes…when you say “Ice the affected area often” are you referring to keeping an ice pack on the front of the neck/throat area or are you referring to keeping ice in your mouth often? I’m scheduled for my surgery on Dec. 30th (heck of a way to ring in the new year) and am 43 years old.

  4. christi

    I am 42 and scheduled for my long overdue tonsillectomy in 5 days. I have read that you shouldn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time without drinking. I do normally sleep with my mouth closed, and I know to sleep propped up, but is that a true estimate?
    Also, those scabs totally have me freaked out! When they start coming off, what is the best way to help that process?
    I really, really appreciate your site!!

  5. Cindi

    My tonsillectomy was yesterday. I fill guilty for feeling so well compared to other stories I’ve heard.
    1 – Do NOT let you tonsils get dry. Drink drink drink. Cool and cold worked best for me.
    2 – Set your timer to take pain meds on time all night.
    3 – I ate some real mashed potatoes last nigh
    4 – I had prednisone to stop swelling and didn’t take it as written due to my oversite. I woke up last night with a very swollen tongue and scared myself.
    5 – This morning I ate scrambled eggs. Also iced coffee so I wouldn’t get caffeine headaches.
    6- As mentioned above, sleep elevated either on a recliner or building your bed up w/a few comforters and your pillow for gradual incline.
    7- The best kept secret was extra strength Cepacol which is a topical and numbs the back of your throat.

    We’ll see what day 2 brings. I’m optimistic!

  6. MaddyB

    Hi everyone, I’m 18 years old and just had my tonsillectomy 2 weeks ago today. Let me tell you… Even though you think this is the worst experience of your life, there is light at the end of the tunnel!!! This site helped me a lot, so I thought I would give some tips that made my painful journey as less painful as it could be.
    1. ICE EVERYTHING!! Ice water, chew on ice chips, iced Gatorade and what really helped me especially during the night (most painful hours) were ice packs. Place them on your neck, jaw and ears to numb the pain.
    2. Sleep is usually your best friend but it is your worst enemy throughout this recovery, if you need to take a snooze try and sleep sitting up… The moment you wake up your throat will be super dry and painful so again have water in reach!!
    3. Do not try and force yourself to eat, I know you’re hungry and you’re craving just about anything but if you rush it can irritate your scabs and end up putting yourself in more pain. Stick to not hot soups, tea, bread without crusts, oatmeal, apple sauce, pudding. As long as you’re drinking fluids you should be hydrated.
    4. Rest!!!! Do not push yourself to go back to work, school or out and about. You’ll feel dizzy and without energy fast. (Learned that the hard way) Lay in bed or on a couch and start a new netflix series.
    5. Take your meds when it hurts. Don’t lay there in pain and try and stick it out- you won’t be able to.
    6. I only could really chew in my later days of recovery but once I could I starting chewing gum, it helped my jaw and eased the pain in my throat, keeping it less dry and having to swallow less.

    I know it’s rough but I started making a turn for the better around day 9 or 10. Two weeks later the sore throat is still here but I can finally sleep through the night without getting up in pain and for water breaks and I am pretty much back on eating my normal diet. It gets better!!!!

  7. Jen

    Hey everyone I’m in day 12, thanku so much for this site it has been great, the humidifier is awesome thanku for that tip…I will have to say this procedure was byfar the most painful I have had, and I consider myself a person who has a high pain tolerance….omg it was awful and the pain meds were making me extremely depressed. So I stopped taking the pain medication day 4, and switched to just Tylenol which has seemed to work oh ya and have the doctor give u the liquid lidocaine great stuff. I appreciate all the post from everyones experiences it helped me thru ….. today I have a sore throat but finally feeling somewhat normal again :)

  8. Paul

    Day 12 here for me and I haven’t felt worse since my surgery. Everything is sore, mind foggy and lots of general pain. I think my scab finally started to come off in my sleep last night. I hope this doesn’t last more than just a few days. I’m a 31 year old male

  9. Donna

    Day 5 of recovery has been the most painful and confusing so far. I didn’t know where the pain was coming from or how to address it. My ears and throat felt like daggers were ripping away from the inside out and I did not know whether to ice or heat. Before bed, I ended up sucking on ice chips till I could swallow my pain killers. Once 30 minutes passed and the sips of cold water had not helped, I switched to warm water and a hot water bottle for my ears. The warm water still hydrated my throat and loosened my jaw muscles. As well, the hot water bottle took away the pain in my ears. Once the pain was gone for another 30 minutes without treatment, I continued to drink water, room temperature this time. I even fell asleep because I had finally relaxed. When my alarm for the next round of pain meds went off, I went back to taking pills with room temp water, not ice cold, and I have not had the intense combination of pain since.
    On another note, my breath was so bad that it was offending ME. I have taken to gargling with one of the “milder” mouthwashes (checked with Doc first) and my teeth, gums, tongue and husband are much happier for it.

  10. Amelia

    Hi Mr. Tooke,
    I was just wondering if there is a difference in recovery for the different types of tonsillectomies. I am getting my tonsils and adenoids out tomorrow the old fashioned way.

    1. Greg Tooke Post author

      Hello Amelia – I have found no clinical studies that definitively indicate one method over another as best. Anecdotally, I read from patients of the coblation method who often tout it as best for recovery. (not scientific, but it does come up alot)

      Best of luck to you!

      1. Amelia

        Well, I couldn’t keep any of the medicines down for a coupe of hours today, so it’s been pretty rough to say the least! But I’m a ton better now. Planning to have this the day before Thanksgiving was not my smartest idea-the food smells so good and I can’t eat any of it. Thanks for checking in!

  11. Emzyi

    Advice needed I’m now at the end of day five and have been in immense pain all day!
    But my question is why does my mouth and jaw feel so tight?i can’t open my mouth fully and can’t speak properly either. Has anybody else experienced this?should I keep opening and stretching my jaw (which causes even more pain) or just rest?
    Thanks in advance starting to worry now!

    1. Cyn

      I am on day 9 and I’m also experiencing a lot of jaw pain, especially in the joint. I am still not able to open my mouth fully, and haven’t even been able to look at the surgery site. From what I’ve read this can be due to the muscles in the area being weakened and also from the surgical procedure itself because they have to extend your mouth (jaw) opened as wide as it goes causing trauma to the area. Likely, time and pain meds will heal this and I would imagine icing the area would help, too. I would imagine the more you try to “force” it open, the more inflammation you can cause in the joint area so allow some time for healing. I’m starting to be able to “handle” the sore throat, but the jaw pain is really hindering eating normally. I also have to drink slowly or water comes out my nose. Hope that’s not a permanent side effect!

    2. clare

      Most of the pain is just recovering from the tonsils being removed; if possible, just do your best to not think about what is going on so much that it keeps you from being able to just rest as much as possible

      I am on my 9th day and the pain comes and goes; the worst part is when, I have woke up to find that my throat is dry and taking my pain medication burns so bad trying to get the pain under control again.

      But, it is definitely getting a little better as each day passes; I am not ready for company or anything yet; just want to be alone in my bed resting.

      But, I am hoping that after the second week passes that I can really see the pain reducing over time.

  12. Liz

    Day 13 recovery (30 years old, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy)
    My recovery is going very well but I still have a lingering sore throat that is very painful at times. Is this normal and if yes, how long should I expect it to last. Also, I still have some ear fullness and ear pain. All of my scabs have fallen off and the surgical site looks very good. Thanks in advance for advice.

  13. Christopher Stearns

    What I do not understand is that I will be in minimal amount of pain,and doze off for 10-15 minutes and then when I wake up I am in immense pain, Why?

    1. Kellie

      Generally it’s because after a tonsillectomy we apparently snooze with open mouths and will tend to breath that way – which dries it out and makes it excruciating. If I go for longer than 20 mins without a drink I get a very similar feeling.

  14. Jessica

    Day 5. OUCH!! I think today is the most painful day yet :( Is my tongue still supposed to be swollen?? On the plus side I have lost 9 lbs…. Can’t wait to be NORMAL again!!

  15. Beth

    I would also note that many people experience some intense ear pain after a few days as the healing continues. This can rival the throat pain. Using a heating pad on the ears and chewing gum, both seem to help with this ear pain. The nerves in the back of the throat are connected somehow to those of the ear and all the swelling post-surgery causes ear pain as well as throat pain for many people.

    1. steve

      Thanks for making this page. I am on night 3 and just got my humidifier running and I have to say I think it is helping out a lot. I’ve nodded off a few times here and there and don’t feel as bad as I did nights 1 and 2

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