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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1,288 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery as Adult and Child

  1. Braxton, I wish you luck. Stock up on smart water as it has electrolytes in the water. Drink drink drink is the most effective way that you will get in healing process. I also recommend a humidifier for your room to keep the moisture for your throat. Do not get in a hurry to eat solid foods as you will know when the time comes when you can try that.stock up on soft foods examples Jell-O Popsicles, broth and possibly mashed potatoes when you’re ready for those. I also got shaved ice from sonic if you have one. I kept chewing on ice to keep my throw hydrated. Keep up on your meds my surgeon prescribed Percocet 10/325 to me because the liquid codeine was not working for me(oxycodone). I had not problems swallowing the pills. You may handle pain different from me but I needed stronger mess. Stay on top of them and take them as prescribed. Don’t get in a hurry to eat solid foods, you’ll know when your ready. Buy some ice packs for the swelling and use them. Helped me a lot. Drink drink drink water, take meds, eat soft foods or even broth, and get a humidifier. Hope this helps!!

  2. So I’m betting my tonsils out in a week. Any advice on what to expect and what to do?
    Anything helps!

    1. everything Gary wrote plus – re: the pills take them literally every 4 hours or whatever your told. Even if your sleeping wake up and take it – trust me it’s not worth that extra 20 minutes or 2 hours or whatever of sleep. you’ll hate your life if you don’t (at least I did the one time I didn’t). I also have percs (I’m currently on day 7 of recovery). they are in pill form but I’m supposed to crush them up. I can handle it that way even on day 1. I crush it with two spoons – pretty simple and then take with water or put it in a spoonful of applesauce or something like that. (don’t mix it with a lot of food, it’ll be hard to eat it all to get the meds!) also ask your doctor about sore throat spray. I just found out about it and I really wish I knew sooner. ask how early you can use it. Gatorade. put in freezer for a short bit = slushy dreaminess (if you leave it in too long it’ll just freeze). take a sip of water or Gatorade every time you wake up, you won’t want to – but it’ll make it better if you keep hydrated. also an ice collar is lovely. A bath can sometimes be soothing also. The whole thing is going to suck – just mentally prepare yourself for that. every day I read this blog though to see what others felt on the day I’m on. I either learn something new or feel a little less crazy/weak. it’s helpful. you are’t going to be alone during the recovery are you? ie. do you have a spouse, parent, etc. with you?

  3. I had those same ear pains on day 2 and 3. The only thing that helped me was to put ice on them and take the pain meds.

  4. I had my surgery on March 4th and it was not bad at all! I spent weeks reading all these horror stories that I almost changed my mind. The first 4 days were great! I even tried to eat a bite of chicken I was so hungry lol! But unfortunately on day 5-6(now) I have been experiencing excruciating ear pain it’s almost 10/10 pain! It’s very painful… Not sure if a nerve is being pinched for 10 minutes and then stops for 2 hours than back again 🙁 I hope these random ear pains stop completely soon….

  5. I had my tonsillectomy on 3/6/15. After reading stories, I was terrified of the recovery process. Honestly, it hasn’t been that bad.
    The day of the surgery I was in the most pain, at about a 4/10. I didn’t sleep well that night, but all in all it was bearable. I began drinking water immediately after surgery, and I honestly think that’s why my recovery process hasn’t been so bad.
    Day 2 was better than day 1, with pain staying at about a 2-3/10. Was able to eat mashed potatoes and baby food today.
    Day 3 was a little worse. I had to travel and I think that’s what made it so bad. My pain reached about a 6/10 but only at the last hour before I could take my pain medication.
    Day 4 has been easy, with pain reaching no higher than a 3 (except when I tried eating spaghetti os). I’ve been able to go 8 hours without my pain meds. Tried eating spaghetti os, I would recommend NOT doing so. I was in pain of about a 7/10 for an hour after I tried this.
    Not every experience is terrible and I was people who are going into surgery to feel more comfortable! As long as you rest, drink A LOT of water, and keep up on your medicine, you will be fine 🙂

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