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


1,234 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery – Adult | Child Tonsillectomy”

  1. Hi, I am on day 15 of recovery. I am a 49 year old male living in the UK.

    I have as most others suffered with sore throats all my life and over the last 15 years a consistently large inflamed right tonsil. I had been told by everyone it’s not a nice operation for an adult and recovery would be painful. For once all those “expert novice Surgeons” were correct and it’s been a tough ride.

    Days 1 to 4, actually were not that bad although drinking any kind of fluid was very painful and eating was liquid or soft food only. Stock up on ice lollies as they will be your friend along with your pain releif.

    Days 5 to 10, where do I start. The pain is beyond what I had prepared myself for and there were tears on a few occasions as even drinking anything was beyond comprehension. Knowing I was dehydrating you realise you must drink but every part of your body is dreading every sip. The other thing is the taste in your mouth, yuck. No matter how many times you brush your teeth it remains. Perhaps a personal issue as many people talk about the tiredness but I was the opposite caused but the painkillers. Over a 6 day window I had 4 hours sleep. This was hard as the pain never goes away and your always thinking about it in addition to overnight TV being terrible.

    Days 10 to 15, constipation is now my enemy as I realise I have not visited the toilet for over two weeks due to the medication. It competes for my attention now along with the pain from my throat. Now eating normal food is possible I suddenly have no appetite as everything still tastes yuck. The pain in my throats is going away and every so often I can feel the fluff coming off the scars.

    Do –
    Stock up on water based ice lollies, soup, ice cream and painkillers as you will need them all.
    Try to sleep upright where you can as it helps.
    Get up and move around, sitting for two weeks in one place only brings other problems.
    Pre prepare some movies, music or books to keep to entertained, you find the people around you are great for the first few days but as time goes on they become less tolerant of your woes.

    Don’t –
    Drink fruit based smoothies thinking they have lots of goodness inside them and they will substitute food, they hurt like hell to swallow due to the acidic fruit content. Orange juice is horrific and is nippy.
    Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be that sore, it is!
    Don’t think you will be back at work in a few days, I am fit, active and in good health yet this has floored me for over two weeks.

  2. I’m currently at the end of Day 4 since my combined tonsillectomy, balloon sinuplasty, and septoplasty. I’m 25 years old This has by no means been a walk in the park so far, but it honestly isn’t as bad as I had feared it would be. Back in October I had an abscess inside my tonsil that I had to get lanced, and the pain from this recovery so far has not been quite as severe as the pain from the abscess. On the day of my surgery when I got home, I slept for 95% of the rest of the day. Woke up around 2am in a lot of pain and had to migrate from my bed to the recliner and continued to wake up every 45 minutes or so. I think this first night was definitely the worst for me because I had packing in my nose from the sinus surgery so I had literally no choice but to breathe out of my mouth. My tongue was like sandpaper (gross I know) even though I tried to drink as frequently as possible. I did not eat anything that first day and just drank water when I could. At 8:30 the next morning I saw my ENT to get the packing removed from my nose thank God. It took most of the second day for the congestion to clear up but once it did it was a big relief for me. Day 2 I would say my pain was around a 4 or so during the day. I was able to eat some popsicles and cream of wheat which tasted like heaven. Again, the middle of the night and first thing in the morning were the worst for me. I was prescribed liquid hydrocodone and a steroid for the swelling. I alternated the hydro every 6 hours with extra strength liquid Tylenol. That seemed to help most of the time. Day 3 was pretty uneventful, tried to incorporate mashed potatoes into my diet but it made my jaw pretty tired and sore. Went to bed, woke up at like 2am again in a lot of pain so I took more meds and put ice packs on my neck which helped me go back to sleep. Today, day 4, the morning sucked as usual but once the steroid kicked in I was feeling much better. Pain was probably at a 3 most of the day. Today I was also able to leave the house to grab a couple of things from the store and made an appearance at a family gathering. I was able to eat some more “real” food there which included potato salad and a roll. After being out of the house for about 1 1/2 I was EXHAUSTED. I guess I’m still building up stamina. Tomorrow will day 5 and hopefully things continue to go smoothly. I know a lot of people say the pain is worse when the scabs fall off so I won’t be super shocked if I start to go downhill but I’m trying my best to stay positive and am overall pleasantly surprised at how well I’ve been doing!

  3. I had my op 12 hours ago, at a lovely hospital in the UK. My consultant said, “don’t worry you’ll be fine, it will feel like a bought of tonsillitis”. Now I’ve had quinsy also and this feels a lot worse. Ice is helping and under UK NHS guidance I’ve managed to eat a bit of toast! I’m so tired but scared to fall asleep because of the pain everyone tells me I’m going to feel on days 2/3. I know this isn’t life threatening. I know this isn’t just happening to me. I know it’s not the worst thing I could be going through. For all those people enduring this though, sleep tight. Kate

  4. Im 37 .
    Just had my surgery today…scared about what is to come. Was scared all week and had horrible anxiety…scared to be put under in fear Id never wake up and my babies would be without me.
    Havent slept all day after surgery. Its not 11:30pm and I really dont wanna go to bed.

    Thank you for this blog.

    1. Hi Andie. Glad you made it through surgery and have begun your recovery. It might not be fun but I’m sure it’ll be worth it. It was for me. Stay hydrated and read up on all the tips from these pages. We’ll be here for you. Remember: This is temporary!

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