Tonsillectomy Recovery as Adult and Child

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.

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

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1,278 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery as Adult and Child”

  1. Hi Mr.Greg thank you for your Tonsillectomy story,it was very helpful to me.Today is my second day of the recovery.I had my surgery done on 4/12/18. I have been having chronic tonsillitis for one year,and the only way to solve the problem was to get my tonsils out. The first day of my surgery it wasn’t that bad it just felt like a normal strep throat, and the second day which is today,from a scale to one to ten the pain is a four. I hope it stays this way. I have heard many stories online that on the fourth day the pain levels up. I heard that adults take longer to recover than children do. I am a 34 year old female with type two diabetes.😕

    1. Hi Lia! Thanks for writing. Yes day one is often the honeymoon. My son had a tonsillectomy on Wednesday. I’ve got him drinking as much as possible, running a humidifier, sleeping in a recliner and alternating between Tylenol and ibuprofen. So far he’s doing very well. I hope you do to. I think it’s also important to eat whatever you can. btw he takes oxycodone before bed and when he gets up in the morning. Hasn’t needed it rest of day.
      Take care and please stay in touch!

  2. Hi all, your information has been very helpful in preparation for a tonsillectomy. I’m scared to death! I think it will kill me. I’m tough and have a strong pain tolerance. I have never used pain medications. I have birthed three babies naturally. I am a57 year old female. I have had two peritonsillar abscesses in eight months. Both times aspirated, The first time, I was intimidated and my blood pressure went very high. Anesthesia with complications. I’m a heavy smoker. I’m going for a sleep study soon for apnea. I have had numerous bouts with tonsillitis and strep my whole life. Begged the dr. to take them out years ago. My daughter had her tonsils out at age 27. She is the toughest person ever and it was very hard for her, but she said she would do it again because she doesn’t get sick like she did as a child. Thanks for reading. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  3. Hi all, I am now 5 weeks post surgery, best thing I ever did. I had no idea how blocked my throat was now I can breathe properly again. Except one tiny thing… I hate my new sneezes. A small price to pay, but does anyone else have a new sneeze? And will I ever get my old one back? My new yawn sucks too, but I can live with that one.

  4. Age 42. Day 10 from first surgery, day 4 from second. First 1 day was tough 7/10 pain. days 2-5 were more like a 5-6/10 but day 6 was 8-9/10. and then the bleed. felt a little trickle of warmth in the back of my throat. too far down to spit it up so i had to swallow it. tried cold water rinses to get it to stop as suggested online. After 2 hours and starting to feel nauseous, headed to emerg. Doctor on call said, you can get some bleeding with a tonsillectomy. I told him I had been swallowing blood for 3 hours at that point. placed me on IV and started some acid injection that is supposed to help clotting. no effect now 5 hours of swallowing blood. starting to get very nauseous so they started an IV anti nauseant which helped immensely, for about an hour. tried hanging my head over the sink for the blood to drip out instead of swallowing, but placing my head that low meant increased pressure and no chance of a natural stoppage. By the time anesthesia and surgeon arrived i was full out vomiting blood clots and, as we found out later, had caused 2 more bleeds. went under GA, cauterized bleeders and have now been 3 days. Small bleed last night. stopped quickly with the cold water.
    So my healing is at two stages. day 10 on the stuff they didnt touch up and day 4 for the stuff they recauterized. I told my wife last night after the slight bleeding “If i have to go under again, they will have to keep me on IV till im done, because I cant handle this”
    notes that I havent seen elsewhere here:
    1) pain is very episodic. Take your pain meds whether you need them or not. dont be a hero.
    2) I found dairy to cause a lot of mucous – bad if you focus on it and feel the need to clear your throat. Good for keeping your throat moist. If I have a mucousy throat and go to sleep, i dont have near the dry throat pain I do if I have been sipping water before sleeping.
    3) warm oatmeal with protein powder in it
    4) raw egg in a 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth.
    5) my uvula is so swollen it looks like a little cocktail wiener sitting on my tongue. Swelling just starting to come down on day 10.
    6) Do not risk a rebleed. do nothing for those 10 days. Second ENT said theres a bit of risk on day one but then the higher risk is day 6-10. If your pain goes well, you’ll feel good by then and be tempted to go do things. Dont. if you go to surgery a second time, the clock starts over.
    7) Found water with electrolytes to sting less than normal room temp water.
    8) if pain is interfering with your ability to stay hydrated and fed, ask for more meds. my second ENT gave orders for 1 tylenol 3 every 6 hours. my first gave me 2 every 4. theres some variation from person to person.
    9) start adding mild laxative to your food as soon as you are eating anything at all. again, don’t be a hero. You don’t want to be sitting in emerg on day 7 with a rebleed because your were constipated and pushed too hard. use the stuff you add to water and just do one a day.
    10) do “granny exercises” for your tongue and jaw: jaw forward, back repeat 20 times. jaw right, left repeat 20 times. jaw open, closed repeat 20 times. tongue out, in repeat 20. tongue left, right repeat 20. tongue against roof, floor repeat 20. do these to the degree possible right from day one and it will significantly decrease the pain you feel in your jaw and tongue and has helped with the numbness in my tongue. (My granny’s tongue was always waving around, even when she wasnt talking – which wasnt often).

    Those are my thoughts. hope it helps. If you are reading this pre-surgery? better be darn sure you need to do this before you start. My ent was russian. before surgery he comes to my bed and says “you have tonsillectomy. It will hurt. Any questions?”


  5. Hello all,
    Age 32 and on day 6. Cannot wait for this to be over. It is just torture.
    Yesterday I had such an easy day and thought I was out of the rough patch but I woke today in excruciating pain.
    I’m not gonna repeat the same as others but can I please give one piece of advice when you are suffering.
    Just relax your body, focus on your breathing and deep breaths in through your nose and fill your chest and long breaths out of your mouth.
    Don’t underestimate the power if breathing.
    Good luck all

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