Tonsillectomy: What to Expect

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Pain after tonsillectomy is inevitable. Tips for easier tonsillectomy recovery from patients who have been through it. What to eat, dealing with scabs and bleeding, managing pain, and shortening recovery time.

Tonsillectomy and its subsequent recovery is no picnic, especially for an adult. Welcome to Tonsillectomy Recovery Resources. Whether you’re considering, planning, or recovering from the procedure, you’ll find all the information you will need to make the best decision about tonsil surgery. You’ll also learn how to get the best care after tonsillectomy. I’ll also help you prepare for your tonsillectomy by laying out simple steps that will make the day of surgery easier and help you to be more comfortable as you recover.

Together we are stronger.  Share your experience. Read about why I got my tonsils out and what I learned

Top 10 Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips

Though I’ve added to the initial 10, these are my top  tips for anyone preparing for, or recovering from tonsillectomy surgery:

Greg's Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips
Top Ten
  • Drink cold fluids
  • Continue to drink cold fluids
  • Drink more cold fluids! This is perhaps the single most important tip to make life easier while speeding up your recovery period.
  • Get a good cool air humidifier and run it all the time in the room you’re in.  Consider having more than one for the primary rooms you’ll be spending time in. To monitor humidity levels pick up one of these. Enter the code: TONSIL for a 25% discount! Humidity Station
  • Don’t worry about sleep. Forget the normal time convention. Sleep for short intervals, preferably in a recliner. Sleep can be your worst enemy. Sleeping a few hours in a bed usually results in a dry throat that hurts like crazy. It can take almost an hour to get the pain back under control.
  • Keep a written log of your medications as you take them. It’s easy to forget what you’ve taken and when. If you would have problems that require help from the doctor, it can come in handy.
  • Read about others’ experiences and share your own. (Check out the tonsillectomy  forum)
  • Plan ahead! Stock up on items you’ll need ahead of time.
  • Take something with your pain medicine. Carnation Instant Breakfast or Ensure will at least provide a base in your stomach and reduce nausea.
  • Drink ice cold liquids!

A few bonus tips- read on>>>>

A few bonus tips for a better recovery:

  • Plan some minor events. Even a simple event like a walk or a bath can take your mind off the discomfort and help your mindset during tonsillectomy recovery
  • Chew sugarless gum. When pain gets referred to the ears, and it often does, chewing gum can ease the ear pain. It also keeps the swallowing process active, which many believe aids in tonsillectomy recovery. A warm compress on the area can also relieve ear pain.
  •  Ice! Whether it’s a high-tech ice bag or a bag of frozen peas, applying ice directly to the throat and neck is a great way to reduce inflammation and take the edge off of break-through pain. (thanks Kate!)
  • Those are my top tonsillectomy tips. For a detailed daily checklist, check out my upcoming book.

I’ve put together a collection of items that I think would be helpful, if not essential, to making tonsillectomy recovery a little more pleasant. Check out the General Store.

Some Extra Tips – After Tonsils are Removed:

  • It’s REALLY important that you drink. I know it’s almost impossible at times, but you must. A trick I used was to use Cloraseptic (sp?) numbing spray. (There’s also a lollipop your doc or pharmacist might know of)- to numb the throat a bit. Then I’d take the medicine. Once the meds kicked in (1/2 hour?), then I’d try to eat. My favorite foods at first were Jell-o and creamed soups. (sweet potato or broccoli by V-8 were good)
  • You must keep drinking. It helps your throat heal and keeps you hydrated. One reader, a nurse, said she went to an emergency room and demanded IV fluids. Wow! Maybe not such a bad idea!

About the author

My name is Greg Tooke and I’m a tonsillectomy patient myself. For most of my life I lived with huge tonsils with craters that the Ear Nose and Throat doctor called, “cryptic.” I got tonsillitis and strep throat several times every year. I snored at night and woke suddenly, catching my breath.  Like many people, I had sleep apnea and didn’t even know it.  Speaking of breath, tonsil stones were making my breath smell awful at times. I’d heard horror stories about adult tonsillectomy , tonsils that grow back, bleeding, excruciating pain, and even death. I was afraid.

Finally, with the advice of my doctor and a resolve to improve the quality of my life, I scheduled my tonsillectomy for the day after Thanksgiving. (a last meal??)  You can read all about my tonsillectomy  story in the pages that follow.

Greg

 

199 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy: What to Expect

  1. Tomorrow will make two weeks post-op and I have to say that things are going very well, finally. Friday I finally ate real food again without being in complete agony, and by last night, I was almost able to even enjoy it again. I stopped the oxycodone meds on Wednesday and experienced mild withdrawal that furthered my resolve to stay away from that stuff if at all possible. Alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen with a shot of chlorioseptic throat spray,once in a while to keep the edge off seems to have been the trick to keep the pain bearable. I hope a few more days and I can begin to forget that i ever even had tonsils and all the problems that led me to having the surgery.

  2. Hi, I am 21 year old and had a tonsillectomy 6 days ago. Just discovered this site after a trip to doctors for more pain meds!

    Instantly after surgery I had morphine for the pain. Then it eased off a bit enough for me to eat. That was a peculiar experience!

    Day 1,2,3 were fine, didn’t need cocodamol, only ibuprofen and paracetomol.

    Day 4,5 pain was unbearable, had to keep on top of meds every 4hours if not just a little bit before! Increased medication to 2x cocodamol, 2x Tramadol & 1 400mg ibuprofen. This took the pain away enough to eat.
    Started to get tooth ache and the pain on the sides of my tongue was agony, more painful than my actual throat! No idea what this is but it was hideous!!

    Day 6: When is this going to end?! Had to go to the doctors to get more pain meds. Tongue is literally on fire and throat is absolute agony I cannot bear to swallow or talk or eat or drink. Everytime I do it’s makes me cry! Doctors gave me more cocodamol and prescribed a stronger anti-inflammatory called Naproxen. Just taken that with food and can say it’s helped a lot! Still agony though but pain is now manageable.

    My question is, did anyone get toothache like feeling? My teeth REALLY hurt and so does the sides of my tongue. Wondering whether anyone else has experienced this?

    I hope this pain goes away soon, not sure how much more I can take, just want to eat nice things!

    1. I did not have much for toothaches, just a general jaw ache. Maybe I was clenching my teeth in my sleep. The pains on the tongue were horrible, to say the least. Like having canker sores on there! I could barely move my tongue. I couldn’t do anything for it but wait. Maybe others have a better solution. I never found one. Continue what you’re doing, because eating and drinking through that pain are going to get you healed quicker. You are in the worst of it now and it will get better!

      1. Hi Mel,

        Thankyou for replying. This is more a tooth/jaw ache and i thought it had got better once id taken the strong anti-inflammatory, but it’s worn off now and I’m in agony again. Can’t move my mouth or anything again and can only take those twice a day.

        Hoping it will get better soon, I can’t stand this anymore it’s horrific!!

  3. I have the same feeling of either mucus or something in the throat always. I was told by my ENT that I have a sinus drain and now…..after my tonsillectomy……acid reflux. I never had either one of these symptoms prior to my surgery. I think I need another opinion.

  4. Don’t worry about the surgery. You won’t feel a thing during the surgery. During recovery you will be able to mitigate the pain when it comes with drinking ice cold water and taking liquid throat numbing medicine (Roxicet is what I’m taking.) Keep drinking throughout the days as they say, but don’t think too much about the worst case scenario and just care for your current symptoms -you will be fine.

    I’m recovering now on day 2.5. I’ve thrown up a few times from blood in my stomach (dried blood) and possibly from the liquid numbing meds which make me a bit dizzy. So I’ve found it best to eat bread or something an hour before taking that to prevent the food from coming up. Strangely, it is less painful than it used to be to throw up since my tonsils are not there anymore. It surprises me a bit more when I have to though probably because of the medicine. It’s not a good thing to be throwing up though because this can rupture your tonsil base and if you begin bleeding bright red, you’ll need to go back to the hospital. This didn’t happen to me yet at least. Just be careful.

    I haven’t used a humidifier, although that may help. Taking the liquid syrup medicine every 4 fours has helped. I lay down after taking the medicine and that helps. My doctor said to be sure to take it consistently and not get too far behind on it because that is when people have more pain issues. I waited an extra hour once and it started to feel a bit worse than usual, so I believe him and just take it every four if that’s when the pain is.

    Thinking about what may or what could happen if you have the surgery and are in pain is useless, just be informed(this site helps) and take care of the pain as it comes, whether it be with the syrup meds, cold water, or a bag of peas on your throat. Get er done- in these modern times we are a lot luckier and more comfortable than our ancestors were. If nothing else take comfort in that. Good luck!

  5. In reading these I’ve noticed many have a smooth recovery with a lower pain scale and as I don’t want to scare anyone I want to be able to let you know everyone is different and don’t prepare to heal like someone else.

    Day 1-3: From waking up after surgery at about 10am I was in excruciating pain. Could barely drink water or simply swallow without crying or spitting it back up. I’d rank it one of the most painful experiences next to my appendix before I got that out. I had trouble on day one until about 7pm which lasted until 10pm and then back to the pain and tears. I woke up during the night twice for medicine (taking 3 does, 2 ibuprofen and one of the prescribed.. I continued this throughout day 6 then moved to only at night and just one of the prescribed every four hours until then) I was lucky to be able to get it all down with out spitting it out from pain. I also had not been able to open my mouth/stick my tongue out enough even just to see my tonsils due to pain when trying.

    Tip: plenty of fluids however if you experience pain like me, I soley recommend water when you are going to sleep as Gatorade and other drinks will leave your mouth dryer after drinking… Waking up – not fun) also make sure to work your jaw so it doesn’t lock as I mention in day 4.

    Day 4: was very rough and similar to 1-4 but that night I did taste a little blood. I did realize by this day my jaw was locked up to where I couldn’t open it wide enough to even fit a straw through (due to keeping my mouth closed/clenching from the pain)

    Day 5: was the same but I did feel a little tickle in my throat along with the taste of blood, as I’m guessing was part of the scab. I got a good amount of relief twice this day finally.

    Day 6: was the same as 5 including the tickle from the scab. Relief was 3-4 times that day.

    Day 7 – Day 9: were about the same

    Day 9:was the first day I got the most relief. I was able to eat a baked potato and little pieces of chicken chewed well. I took a stool softener the next two days as I hadn’t had a bowl movement since before my surgery and finally went the morning after the 2nd dose. My best day after that was day 12.

    Day 10-11: same as before

    Day 12: I didn’t feel so dependent on my medication at all and was able to eat more as well. I felt much better overall although my throat is still sore of course. My jaw is almosttt all the way open from being locked but I have a little ways to go on that.
    After writing that^ at about 9pm I began spitting up blood (pure thick red blood not just pink in my spit) and had to go to the hospital but was sent home since bleeding has subsided (advice: if bleeding doesn’t subside after 20-30 minutes, thennnn go to ER)

    From day 13-21 was progressive and by day 21 I was about 90% finally!
    After 4 weeks I’d say I was 100%

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