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

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.


85 thoughts on “After Tonsillectomy- What to Expect

  1. How did you guys get rid of the swelling? Its day 12 for me and my scabs have fallen (90%). I am able to swallow with bearable pain. My tongue and uvula are still swollen. The worst – my jaw is sort of swollen like the area under my cheek bones. It does not look weird but it looks like I ve gained a lot of weight. How do I get rid of the face swelling?

    1. How are you coming along now? This was the most recent post I found, I’m on my fifth day (surgery 28th of Nov) and is desperate to know when it will turn!

      1. I had my surgery on the 29th and it is now day 7 for me! I feel better than I have in a while, feels like a regular sore throat after all the he’ll days 3-6 put me through. I think day 8 might be the day it’ll turn for me? I think the average is day 9!

        1. Today is my 9th day.. It’s definitely coming along, I’m taking oral meds now, and not so often. But I still wake up in the morning feeling sore, but the pain in my throat is more of a stinging sensation, probably due to some of the scabs..

        2. How are you going? Are you all healed? It’s 5am day 4 for me and by far the most painful so far. I’m wondering when this will all be over and if it gets worse lol.


  2. I had my tonsils out out on November 20 (16 y/o) and the pain has been the worst I’ve ever experienced. Since day two my ears have been a big source of pain and I’ve been using some ear drops as my doctor said to but this still doesn’t seem to take away all of the pain, any suggestions? Swallowing is also excruciating. I couldn’t eat anything at all until yesterday, and even then I could only manage half a container of applesauce. Part of why I can’t eat is this horrible taste in my mouth. It makes everything I eat taste rancid and I can’t stomach it. My tongue is this awful white and I think I might have thrush? Has anyone else experienced this? I can sometimes eat really sweet things like popsicles that overpower the taste for a while, but that’s all. I’ve been taking my pain meds every four hours just as prescribed, but it is day 7 post op and the bottle only has one or two doses left. Yesterday I went all day without taking any medication in an effort to save it for at night when I needed to try and sleep, but today I’m going to call my doctor and see if he can refill the prescription because yesterday was horrible. Will a doctor refill a prescription (the bottle says no refills) if the patient runs out before the pain is supposed to be over with? And I have been taking the EXACT dose it said to on the bottle, so I’m not sure why I would run out so quickly. Talking is also still very painful and this is a concern for me because I am a singer and my voice is a big part of me. When does your voice usually come back? I have also started having coughing fits and I guess it may be because the scabs are coming off of something? Has anyone else had this happen? It’ll feel like something is tickling my throat and I start coughing uncontrollably, especially when I’m laying down trying to go to sleep or I will wake up out of sleep coughing uncontrollable and that’s usually when I need to take my pain meds again. Lastly, I feel like I’m swallowing things a lot of the time, like maybe the scabs are coming loose and I’m swallowing them? Is this normal? Sorry about all of the questions, but I really hope someone can answer some for my sake. Thank you. -Haylie

    1. Yes, i just had this surgery done and im 19. your doctor should absolutely refill your script. it is more of a control thing than anything. yes, you could be swallowing your scabs and that’s why you feel that swallowing sensation. that happened to me as well. my voice is still different and it has been three weeks since my surgery but I’m feeling sooo much better, really once you swallow your last scabs its almost a 100% different and you feel so much better. you may feel the need to brush your tongue which i did twice a day everyday because it grossed me out. i do not think you have to do this, there were a few complications with my surgery and it really tore my tongue up which was so painful for the entire time i cried so much about my tongue and jaw pain, it really is just radiation of the tonsil pain, try hot pads on your ears and maybe take a bath! I’m sorry girl hang in there it really does get better, sooner than you think!

  3. Just had my tonsils November 15th removed bc they had to remove my styloid bone behind right tonsil. I have eagle syndrome and I feel great besides it hurts to swallow and where they removed the bone hurts.

  4. Hi, I’m 30 yrs old, getting a tonsillectomy soon. I see a lot of advise on here, but I am working… What about using ora-gel or similar products that have numbing medication? Has anyone tried that?

    1. Try the cough drops with numbing effect, cepracol i think…. I didn’t work and couldn’t imagine trying to work through that, but those cough drops saved my life. numbing spray also helped right before i tried to eat which i also timed to when i took my meds so I could at least get something in my tummy every once in a while!

    2. Did you really work after your surgery??

  5. I’m on day 7 of my recovery and I woke up to my scabs bleeding in three different spots. Not prefusly and they stop bleeding when I drink ice water. They tend to start bleeding again after a while though. Has anyone else experienced this? Should I be worried?

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