Tonsillectomy Recovery – Adult | Child Tonsillectomy

Planning and Recovering From Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

Let’s start with my own tonsillectomy recovery story. I wasn’t always this healthy. As a kid I ingested more penicillin than a corporate-raised chicken. I was in the doctor’s office several times each year with a sore throat. As the doctor or nurse peered into my mouth, the reaction was always the same: “Whoa, those are some big tonsils!” The diagnosis was usually tonsillitis, or strep throat. As the doctor wrote the prescription, he’d explain that years ago, tonsils like mine would have been removed, but, “these days,” we try to hang onto them. “These days,” were the 1970’s. I guess the tonsillectomy pendulum had swung back from the days when kids got their tonsils out because their brother was getting his out.

Thanks! – Greg

Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case.


“This is temporary. You WILL feel better. Hang in there and stay hydrated!” -Greg Tooke

As an adult I continued to suffer from frequent bouts of tonsillitis. It seemed that I caught every bug that passed through my house or workplace. I guess those big ugly tonsils were a nice home for those nasties. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I also became aware that I suffered from something called, Obstructive Sleep Apnea -a condition in which a person stops breathing while asleep. I snored often and would awake abruptly, gulping in big breaths. I felt tired most days. After raising four babies, I had come to accept fatigue as a normal part of life! One day at a routine physical my doctor remarked about the number of episodes of strep throat and tonsillitis I’d had. We also talked about the sleep problems. While he didn’t formally diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, he suspected that I had it. He recommended a tonsillectomy, because of all the tonsil problems I’d had. As a bonus, I might find relief from the sleep apnea as well.

If not, I’d undergo a sleep study. Forty four years old and father of four boys and a doctor finally said it: Those tonsils are doing you more harm than good! As much as I hated those tonsils, I was terrified at the thought of going under the knife. I started reading about tonsillectomy recovery on the internet and talking to friends. That didn’t help. “My cousin knew a guy who got a tonsillectomy and bled to death.” “At your age, tonsillectomy is dangerous.” When I met with the ear, nose and throat specialist, (an otolaryngologist), he told me that the risks are the same for an adult undergoing tonsillectomy surgery as for a child, but tonsillectomy recovery is longer and more painful. He was right about that!

Deciding to get a Tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips

Recovery tips for tonsillectomy patients and families

I scheduled the surgery for the day after Thanksgiving. A traditional day of feasting in the United States. If it was to be my last meal, I planned to make it a good one! As it turned out, I was so nervous and scared that I could hardly eat on that day. I was recently divorced and had shared placement of my four boys. So many people counted on me that I began to question my decision. What if I died on the table? How reckless to leave behind a family, simply to avoid frequent tonsillitis? My aunt, a registered nurse reassured me about how simple the surgery was, and how far anesthesiology had come. I had nothing to worry about. Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case

“My tonsils were like a 400 pound gorilla on my back. I don’t miss them at all. Ever.” -from the forum ________________________________________________________________________________

I took a week off from work, asked my ex wife to take care of the boys that week, and asked my uncle to drive me to and from the hospital. (a requirement with anesthesia) That was about all the tonsillectomy recovery preparation I did. I was about to learn a lot!   Surgery went fine. I awoke in recovery with a serving of Jell-o in front of me. (“Jelly,” to my British friends) The nurse said that I had to finish it before I could check out. I swallowed it with great relish. It was divine! I called my uncle and we were out of there. I felt ok. I told him thanks and not to worry. I’d be fine. I believed this. Aside from a couple visits, I spent the next ten days alone in misery. The pain set in after about 24 hours. Streaming movies and television shows were my friends. Sleeping became my worst enemy. I’d wake up with my mouth dried out and my throat on fire. Oh my God. I was not prepared for this! I ran out of Popsicle’s on day three. I ran out of pain medicine on day five. The pain peaked on day seven. I broke down and cried in front of my brother on day eight- a combination of pain, drug induced depression, and sleep deprivation. Since then, I’ve read thousands of similar accounts on the tonsillectomy forum I created. It didn’t have to be so hard. If I’d known what I do now, I could have done so much to make my tonsillectomy recovery better. I hope to reach as many people as I can to help guide them through the tunnel. It has been my passion and taught me more about compassion and the amazing strength of the human spirit than any other life experience. When you shine a light for others, you also light your own path.

In the pages at follow, I’ll share tonsillectomy recovery tips with you that I learned from my tonsillectomy experience and years of coaching others through tonsillectomy and recovery. More about tonsillectomy…read more


1,271 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery – Adult | Child Tonsillectomy”

  1. Just stumbled across this blog. OMG. My tonsillectomy is planned for tomorrow. I haven’t organised anything – food-wise and I’m starting to freak out where I can buy a humidifier last minute- probably on my way to the hospital. I just made note of all the drugs I’m going to ask the doctor for. I hate pain. Reason for the tonsillectomy- re-occuring strep resulting in psoriasis guttate (the worsed). I have two small kids and run a business. I have signed myself off for the next 10 days and am going to camp out away from everything and everyone. Hoping to come back without tonsils , no more reoccurring strep & 7 kg lighter 😉 – Hope it (the pain) will be worth it..

    1. Hope you made out ok! Don’t let these stories scare you too much.

      I’m a 32 year old female and I’m on Day 11 of my recovery. It was no worse than strep throat the entire time. My scabs are more than half gone already! Just get that humidifier, drink constantly and stay on top of the pain by taking your meds on time, every time!

  2. Female, 45, had my surgery on Monday 26th Feb, it is currently Tues 6th March, day 8. Tonsillectomy only, enlarged tonsils, multiple bouts of tonsillitis (last one landed me in hospital), potential cause for sleep apnea.

    Thank you to all the past tonsillectomy warriors who have helped us all get through this. This website has been a godsend.

    We’re all different, but my recovery has been similar to the prior posts, except I am still waiting for that second wave of pain… in that everyone says at day 6-ish it gets much worse. it has hardly been a walk in the park, but today I came off painkillers entirely – subject to change if that second wave of pain comes in. I still can’t swallow well or without a lot of pain (eating is still a chore), but the rest of the time now the pain is 1 or 2 out of 10.

    The advice I want to re-iterate:
    * The humidifier overnight is compulsory
    * Chewing gum helps moisten the area when you can. I would often wake up and go straight for the gum to get my throat going.
    * Keep on the pain meds timetable – I never took the overnight ones because I slept well the entire time, but if the pain is keeping you awake, take the drugs
    * Drink as much water as you can tolerate.

    Other things:
    * it’s hard to breathe at times due to the swollen uvula and throat
    * you will feel weak and tired that entire time – drugs and lack of food means you will have no energy at all. Every day for the last 8 days, I had 12-16 hours sleep a day, and I am still exhausted
    * weight loss – I am down 7 kgs (15pounds) since last week, I expect that will continue down a little more as I am still not eating properly. Will now focus on keeping that off! At least there is an upside of the last crappy 8 days.
    * if you were on opioids, and had to take stool softeners, the diarrhoea will kick in soon enough. Yay, one more thing to deal with.

    I never got to that point of “I can’t do this” or “I wish I never did it”. It has sucked, OMG it has sucked, but it wasn’t horrific.

    1. Just wanted to update it is now Thurs 8th March, so either day 10 post surgery or day 11 including day of surgery (depending on how you are counting), and I feel almost back to my normal self. I still can’t eat without some pain, so that “proper meal” is yet to be enjoyed (fingers crossed for this weekend!), but I am eating more, and have more energy and I am up and about and being a lot more active than I was for the first 7 days. No painkillers in the last 2 days, although I am sure I could take them before meals to make that a little easier, but I have always been the kind of person who hates taking meds. I have been a bit chatty today and have noticed I am getting a husky voice at times, and more talking = more pain.
      The weight loss has stopped (damn), but otherwise my recovery was unremarkable except I didn’t get that second wave of pain mentioned by pretty much everyone else. The pain was even throughout, gradually tapering down after about day 6.

  3. Today is day 7. Still very little pain. I had been taking dilaudid and Tylenol every 4 hours until day 4, then went to every 6, now I am only taking it as needed.

    I had a minor bleed on day 4 and went to get checked out, but it stopped on its own, thank god.

    Scabs slowly seem to be “thinning”, I’m finding in can see some pink showing behind the white now.

    This was way easier than I worried it would be. I was scared to death. I’m eating everything except crunchy foods. Just chewing like crazy and drinking tons of water with everything.

    I also sleep with a warm mist humidifier. Helps a TON!

  4. I had my tonsils out on Feb 20th. I’m now post op day 10…. I’m 47.
    Wow! What a hard 10 days.
    Like most, my surgery day was ok just a bit of discomfort really… day 2-3 was bearable but eating was uncomfortable. Night times are hard and hardly slept. Day 4-10 were by far the hardest. My pain peaked on day 8. I had a small bleed day 8 and a clot on day 9 but today day 10 there is improvement. Still keeping up with regular meds. Co-codomol and ibroprofen .
    It’s been a very painful experience that i definitely wouldn’t want to go through again. I had read the horror stories and the not so horror stories and had hoped I’d be somewhere in the middle. I’d say Day 6,7,8&9 were the worse. Eating was the main issue because it’s very painful to do even if it’s soft foods. I won’t lie it’s not an easy four days. I struggled big time with pain.
    My tips for a good recovery are ;
    Set alarm during the night to take meds…DO NOT let them run out!!
    Sip cold water regularly use iced when really sore
    Ice pops are a god send but avoid highly flavoured ones as they sting.
    Ice cream is ok but does leave a mucussy film which when your throat is really painful is hard to clear.
    Ice packs work well. I did use heat pads too after day 8 which did bring some relief.
    Use lip balm, my lips were very sore afterwards.
    If you have any damage to your mouth, I did, it gets better. I had a numb swollen tongue and the feeling is returning slowly,
    Sleep will be limited as your throat dries out and wakes you. It’s very uncomfortable when it happens so keep water close by
    I slept propped up every night which was easier than laying flat.
    I ate things like runny thinned out porridge, rice pudding, soups, scrambled egg, jelly, yoghurt. My mum made me some dinners but I literally mashed them up and tried. Hurt like hell but felt nice to have tasty food. Oh talking hurts a lot too so limit that. My kids have learnt my sign language lol
    You get a horrible taste in your mouth and your tongue goes yellow, I’m told all normal and simple teeth brushing or gargle helps.
    One tip to remember on day 4-9 when the scabs come off don’t use a mouthrinse it really stings bad! I had difflam but did not help at all really.
    Today Is Day 10 post op & was brave enough to try toast!!! I was surprised that if you eat it in small bites and chew it’s not that bad….
    am feeling brighter today but I’m lightheaded and weak from lack of nutritious food and sleep. Rest lots…. being a hero will delay the healing process.
    What ever you do, whatever your pain you have to eat and drink. honestly it is essential.
    It’s tough but you get there. Ive still got a way to go but it does get easier
    hope everyone gets on ok and has a speedy recovery

    1. On day 5 after my surgery… was at its peak so far … reading experiences online is helping me prepare for the finish….

  5. Hi everyone, I am a 20 year old female and am on day 11 of my recovery.

    I want to start by saying that everyones bodies differ and both the healing process and pain threshold are not the same for everyone. For example, my best friend had this same surgery about 2 years ago and felt almost completely back to normal by day 6. Unfortunately, that was not the same case for me, and after talking with her it seemed as though her healing process was not nearly as painful as mine.

    Days 1-3 were definitely rough – prepare yourself for total misery. This should be the same result across the board, no one feels great the first few days after any surgery. Taking your medication is very important! Along with other pain killers (because you will need them). I recommend logging the times of your medication and food intake as it becomes difficult to keep track over time, but it is important to know you are taking the proper dosage at the correct times. I will also advise popsicles, smoothies (but not through a straw, spoon fed) and dairy-free ice cream during this time. Sip on water constantly throughout all the days of your recovery, hydration is key.

    Days 4-5 were strangely good, still in significant pain but felt much better than before. My food intake was a little better over this time, but it still hurt a lot to swallow anything.

    Day 6 was the day I actually thought I was dying. Not to scare anyone, as everyones experiences are different, but this day was absolute torture. There is a nerve that connects from your inner ear to your throat, unfortunately for me that nerve was completely compromised in my healing process. Anything I swallowed, it felt as though my throat and ears were on fire. It was an indescribable, sharp, piercing, hot burn that would take forever to go away. Even if I inhaled heavily my ears would hurt.

    Days 7-9 sadly were very similar to day 6. I was unable to get out of bed, unable to eat anything, and did a lot of crying (but be careful, as crying can build up mucus in your nose and throat which is very painful to discharge while you are crying). I made an appointment with my ENT surgeon on day 7 for a check-up and to get new medications, as I was originally prescribed a liquid morphine but it continually was making me nauseous to the point of me puking a lot. He said my throat was healing perfectly and that unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about the excruciating pain in my ears except advise me to take more Advil in between taking my new medication, which he prescribed oxycodone (still made me slightly nauseous, but I began taking Gravol 15 minutes before I would take the oxygen and it helped significantly).

    Day 10-11 have been extremely more tolerable. I have started to eat, mainly pudding cups and chocolate chip pancakes. I had oatmeal for supper which wasn’t so hard to swallow either and my appetite has definitely gotten better. The only pain I have now is centralized on the right side of my throat connecting to my inner ear. I am continuing with the pain medications as they still help and am confident that I will be able to return to a fully regular routine in about 3-4 days from now.

    I had meant to keep this so much shorter but there is too much information I wanted to share. There are some general tips and warnings I would also like to give:
    – ice packs are your best friend, the muscles under your chin and on your neck become very tight and sore so it is handy to have an ice pack available; I have one constantly at my side
    – no straws
    – you will wake up at least once or twice in the night (I didn’t set alarms, however I wish I had) and your throat will be dry and in a lot of pain, so always make sure there is water on your nightstand
    – I literally did not eat anything for about 3 days which is scary as I almost fainted in the shower the one day. I suggest meal replacement drinks to replenish your body with nutrients that are being lost, and constant hydration
    – I regret not buying a humidifier for my room as my throat always became very dry in the night
    – you must have a support system – do not undergo this surgery if you live alone or do not have someone checking in on you regularly
    – the best thing you can do is force yourself to sleep as much as you can, but only in hour increments as you need to wet your throat

    Overall, this surgery was the most difficult thing I have ever been through and I currently regret it. That being said, I know it will be worth it in the long run. However, I do suggest on not having this surgery unless completely necessary.

    Best of luck to all!

    1. I have to agree I’m at Day ten post op and regretted it, I’m sure once this is all over I will be happy never to get tonsillitis again! Hope you get on ok

    2. Now Day 16 – so much better! There is still some discomfort when I swallow food but nothing overly painful. I’m eating full meals again, but still only soft food. My go-to’s have been oatmeal, pancakes, any form of pasta, and smoothies. I’m also still steering clear of anything acidic – for me specifically any type of berry seems to still sting my throat. Still icing my neck from time to time and I constantly have a water bottle in my hand. Today is the first day that I have taken no medication whatsoever, not even Advil when I first wake up. My throat seems to feel as though its constantly dry, but not in the painful way it had felt before.
      IT GETS BETTER!!! I truly didn’t think the pain would ever end but it is slowly stopping and I could not be more happy.

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