Tonsillectomy: What to Expect

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. Hi Greg, I found this site enormously helpful when I had my tonsils removed as an adult, a couple of years ago. One of the (many) aspects that I struggled with was the loss of taste sensation that I experienced afterwards. I guess it doesn’t affect everyone but the medical profession do not seem to recognise it at all. My experience was that my taste slowly returned but it took about 12 months. I wanted to leave this feedback as some reassurance about this would have helped me at the time. I hope it helps someone else. Helen xx

    1. Wow. That’s a long time to deal with! Glad you’re better and thank you very much for sharing!

    2. Hi Helen

      Thank you so much for your information! It was very helpful! It’s been 5 months for me since my surgery. I still have not regained my taste buds. Everything sill taste funny. It’s getting better, but not there as of yet. My problem is that it feels like something is stuck in the back of my throat. It’s ALWAYS there. When I look inside my mouth, I can’t see anything in the back of my throat…..it just feels like it is. My ENT says I now have GERD. I don’t know if I necessarily agree because I have no other symptoms…..just the feeling of something in the back of my throat. I think this feels worse than when I had the HUGE tonsils. Please let me now if you have experienced this feeling. Thanks,

      1. omg. I am about 10 days out from having my tonsilectomy and uvulectomy. It frightens me to hear you say that you have already had your tonsillectomy and feel like you have something stuck in your throat. that’s the main reason I want this procedure done. if I feel like a still have something lodged in my throat following this procedure I am going to literally cry my eyes out! I have been dealing with this feeling for approx. 4 mo straight and am at my wits end with it.

  2. crazy question, and it probabaly doesn’t really matter – but do you all count day 1 as the day of surgery or day 1 as the first day after surfery???? At this ppoint a whole day makes a difference if you no what I mean ….thanks!

  3. I’m the mother of a 20 year old who is on day 5. Instant mashed potatoes has worked really well for my daughter. Her pain schedule is almost exactly like the previous peoples comments. Today is her first day on just Tylenol, no Lortab or Percocet, as they were making her worse. Hallucinations, paranoi, claminess, extreme light-headedness…… Anyone else have that problem with the meds. Two Tylenol every six hours (which is what I understand to be the maximum due to liver damage) is hardly anything. Thought I’d be feeling better by today instead of marking the half-way point. Hope this is worth it.

  4. Hello,
    I have read this forum many times. Before my surgery and now 6 days after. It always helps to know that my case is normal.
    True, days 1-2 are a cake walk. Makes you wonder what the big deal was.
    Days 3-4 things got a little rocky. I thought I only had the one amount of meds so I was only taking 3mL to make them last longer. Big mistake, I was in pain and didn’t do anything all day. Just drinking water hurt. Day 4 is when the earaches started. They seem to never go away. Chewing gum hurts.
    Days 5-6 better with more meds but still by far the worst. I’m am on day 6 and am wondering when I can expect to feel somewhat normal again.
    I have lost 7 lbs and still struggling to eat. I have a humidifier, throat spray, and pain meds. I try everything I can think of to eat something that is easy. Any suggestions?? I’m in my early 20’s, I should recover easier.
    The reason I did this was because I developed guttate psoriasis. It’s from getting strep. It’s not 100% it’ll go away but I figured I should give it a try. Anyone ever heard of this?
    The other hard thing for me is all the saliva or buildup in the back of my throat. Makes me caugh which is very painful.
    Thanks for this awesome forum.

    1. Hi Kitty, and welcome. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would expect that you’ll be getting close to normal at about day 10. For me, days 7 & 8 were worst, I was 44 at the time. (I’m much younger now) A warm compress can also help with ear pain. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

    2. Hi Kitty, I am 38 and on Day 9. My experience has been pretty much like yours. Days 1-3 ok. Day 4 I felt minor ear aches. Day 5 the pain started to increase, making Days 6 and 7 the worse, taking away all chances of talking. I, too, have a lot of excessive mucus in the back of my throat. But on Day 7, I started coughing uncontrollably, leading to much pain AND the release of a lot of that mucus. This helped me to realize that (A) that mucus was a big factor in my inability to talk and (B) the addition of too much mucus was not stopping my throat from drying out. I was not sipping water regularly, because of the pain it caused, but was thinkimg the mucus was helping, when it really was not. So, basically, keep sipping room temp. water all day to help moisten your throat. That helped with the pain but on Day 9, pain is still present most of the day and eating is next to impossible. I, too, am wondering when this will all go away. Good luck

  5. I am 21, today will be my fifth day after surgery. I literally just got back from the store with more meds and throat spray. I read this forum before surgery and it got me prepared. I thought I had everything I needed. I guess nothing prepares you for the pain. The first two days were easy I thought it’d be cake. Yesterday I did nothing but lay around in pain. I’ve lost 7 lbs so far. Last two days I pretty much ate nothing. Hopefully the throat spray and more meds will help. Thanks for the help guys

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