Tonsillectomy Tips From Patients


Tonsillectomy Tips

As I’ve written, there was much that I did not know as I planned, experienced, and recovered from my own tonsillectomy. My Ear Nose and Throat doctor, (ENT), and his nurse gave me some general information about the surgery. We talked about how tonsillectomy surgery was performed, what the risks were, and what to expect after my adult tonsillectomy surgery.

In addition to this information, I tried to arm myself with as much information from other sources as I could. The internet is filled with medical information and advice. Some of it related to tonsillectomy. Some of it is accurate. Some of it is valuable to a person considering or recovering from tonsillectomy surgery. Most of it is not. Some of the scariest information I got was from my family and friends. Everyone seemed to have some horror story about an adult dying from tonsillectomy, or having a near-death experience from bleeding or anesthesia. As if I wasn’t nervous enough!  Fear and anxiety are usually born of uncertainty   The more we know about what to expect, the better we are able to execute a task without irrational fears.

I’ve read thousands and thousands of comments on the various pages of this website. One message is expressed again and a gain: Knowing what to expect helps enormously! This is your chance to do others a great service. Take your wisdom, born of personal experience, and help others. When you shine a light for others, you also light your own path.

For a live discussion about tonsillectomy and tonsillectomy recovery, join us in the Tonsillectomy Recovery Forum

Tonsillectomy Tips

Tonsillectomy Advice

The doctors, nurses, bloggers, publishers, family and friends all helped shape my expectations about what to expect before, during and after my tonsillectomy. None of it compares to the value of actually experiencing it. I learned more in the weeks before and after my adult tonsillectomy than I could have learned from years of research. This website is filled with over 50 pages of that wisdom.

If you are reading this, you probably have some experience yourself. How would you like to help someone who is trying to decide whether to have a tonsillectomy? Help someone planning or recovering from tonsillectomy surgery? By answering this one question, you may be able to save someone from a struggle you had:

IF I WAS PLANNING MY TONSILLECTOMY TODAY, THIS IS WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY…

94 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Tips From Patients”

  1. I am a 44-yr-old female with no history of major surgeries other than wisdom teeth removal. It’s been 9 days since my tonsillectomy surgery. The doctors told me that it would be an incredibly painful recovery. I believed them and tried to prepare myself for the worst. My idea of worst pain imaginable didn’t even come close to what I’ve been experiencing. I felt OK for the first couple of days post-surgery and then got hit with the most horrible pain that I’ve felt in my entire life. You expect to have throat pain, but no one really warns you about the stabbing, throbbing ear pain that has lasted for more than 5 days. It comes and goes throughout the day, but it’s definitely the worst during the night, even while staying on top of my pain meds (Advil and Extra-Strength Tylenol. I started out with Percocet/Advil, but I hated what the narcotic did to my digestion). Thanks to this site plus lots of experimentation, here’s what has worked for me:

    • Ice packs. My pain meds did nothing for the ear pain, but ice was incredibly helpful. I wrapped a flexible ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a T-shirt and tied it around my neck or held it to my ears whenever the stabbing ear pain would start, usually in the middle of the night. Keep a small cooler by your bed so that you have quick access to them with sudden onsets of pain.

    • Setting multiple alarms on your phone with labels so that you know what pain meds to take when.The labels were incredibly helpful because I was alternating high doses of Advil and Tylenol. Even more helpful when I had Percocet in the mix, because you can’t take those with Tylenol.

    • Chewing gum. This was surprisingly helpful with calming throat and ear pain. The first few swallows while chewing are hard, but things will calm down if you keep chewing. The most helpful piece of advice that my Dr. gave me was keep finding ways to swallow, no matter how painful it is. The more you swallow, the faster your recovery.

    • “Observing your pain” mindfully, or meditation. Again, surprisingly helpful when it feels like someone is stabbing your ears and throat with an ice pick and all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position and scream. When I “watched” my pain, the pain would subside more quickly than when I would actively wish it away. If you have time to prepare before surgery, you can read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Full Catastrophe Living…” to learn more about this.

    • Sleeping with your head elevated in a reclined position. It’s hard to do, I know, and some nights were more restful than others. I found that sleeping somewhat upright really helped with decreasing bouts of ear pain and the coughing fits that came from the weird feeling of the scabs in the back of my throat. I was also told that it helps to reduce your risk of bleeds, which I have not experienced, as of yet. I have a foam wedge that I stacked pillows on. I also slung a pillow across my chest to rest my arms on plus a pillow under my knees. (If you do restorative yoga, think Queen’s Pose.)

    • Staying Hydrated. Everyone tells you to do this, but has anyone told you why? My Dr. warned me that post-surgical bleeding complicates healing. When he told me that a well-lubricated throat was the best way to prevent this, I was highly motivated to keep drinking throughout the pain. I just kept telling myself to drink out of fear that my wounds would open back up and I’d have to start the whole miserable process over again. Crossing fingers, but still no bleeding.

    • Find things that you are willing to eat/drink, knowing that your tastes will change from day to day. On some days, I could only eat/drink hot things. Cold things worked better on other days. Here are the foods that have worked for me: noodles (hot or cold), pancakes with butter and syrup (McDonalds’ Big Breakfast was heaven on one morning, even though I don’t normally eat fast food), mashed avocado, poached or scrambled eggs, Mac and cheese, ice cream, yogurt, wonton soup. Hopefully you’ll have someone taking care of you that will run to the store or a restaurant for you on a moment’s notice when you realize that you can’t tolerate the foods that you had originally planned for. I had planned for green smoothies with spinach, bananas, and berries to get me through. Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned. It’s important to eat and drink what sounds good, regardless of nutritional factors, in my opinion.

    Ultimately, remember that everyone is different. Some things that worked for me may not work for you, so be willing to experiment, which is easier to do when you have a support system, of course.

    I wish everyone well in their recovery.

  2. Man what a crazy last couple weeks. I am 30 years old and this has been the hardest thing ive ever gone through. Literally thought i was going to die. So leading up to my surgery my tonsils would not go back down. Went to the ER 5 times before i could see an ENT. Constant feeling of choking from my tonsils literally touching. Finally got to the ENT and he told me im fine and stay on the antibiotic and recover. 2 weeks later and another ER visit im like ” cut them out or i will”. finally set up an appointment and had surgery and got both removed. After surgery Doctor looked at my wife in disbelief and said ” man those were huge, They were the size of lemons”! :/

    Surgery day- 5:30 a.m. and was done with surgery and out in a couple hours. Wife drove me home and i was failing in and out of sleep. I work from home and as soon as i got home i felt good enough to work on the computer. Just kept falling asleep which is no big deal. The rest of the day was just resting and falling in and out of sleep.

    Day 2- Felt fine. Was taking the pain meds every 4 hours day and night. Felt good enough to work on the computer

    Day 3- Same as Day two. Not really in any pain, Wasn’t eating much but but was eating Popsicle and drinking fluids.

    Day 4- Felt like hell! throat was pretty sore and that night something happened and felt a burning in the back of my throat like a swallowed a hot pepper. Blood came out of my nose as it was running but not enough to worry. Ended up just sleeping it off.

    Day 5- I was actually feeling fine and thought i was through the hard part.

    Day 6- Uvula 🙁 swelled up and then gave me problems. Went to the ER and they gave me a weak steroid and didnt help. My Uvula literally was flopping in and out of my mouth. i would literally have to swallow it back and keep my head back to keep it from coming into my mouth. Worst feeling in the WORLD! On top of that tongue was still swollen and had a yeast infection on my tongue. and that made it feel like there was a hair in the back of my throat.

    Day 7- Went to see the ENT about my Uvula. He prescribed me a steroid and told me to go home. So i did…spent that day battling my Uvula and was absolutely miserable.

    -Here on out only half my pain meds when i would wake up in the morning and my steroids. Mornings were the worse, Also had horrible Heart burn from here on out too, also started taking acidohilis throughout the day which helped-

    Day 8- Still the same and wasnt feeling any better but tried to push through to get my Uvula to go back down.

    Day 9- I called the ENT and said i Need something stronger. Went in and got a steroid shot and was starting to feel a little better that day. Also noticed one scab was gone.

    Day 10- Woke up feeling better but was gagging when i would talk. Even mowed my lawn and went to the store and was eating a little. Mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Was able to talk a little and talk to my wife and daughter for the first time about what all has happened.

    Day 11- Today, Woke up feeling groggy but took my pain meds and probiotic and steroid and was finally feeling somewhat normal. Went and had taco cabana for breakfast and ate like a king. break fast tacos, chips and queso and beans, SO GOOD! lunch i had chips and cookie and Dinner we had burgers and hot dogs and i even ate chips and salsa! So Starting to feel much better. Throat feels like its healing and everything seems good. Both scabs are gone and no longer feel like dying. YAY!

  3. I am now a month and a half post-op after having a tonsillectomy at 34. This site was so valuable to me while I prepared for my surgery. I was so nervous and being able to read and prepare helped my anxiety tremendously. I wanted to pass a few things on that I learned that made my life so much easier during my recovery.

    The weeks before my surgery, I made a TON of chicken and turkey stock (bones/meat, onion, carrot, celery, water, salt, and a tablespoon of vinegar boiled in water for several hours and strained). I would freeze it into ice cube trays and bag up the cubes. It was helpful to eat cold and warm and easy to portion out. As you are feeling better, you can also mix in mashed potatoes or biscuits/toast. And it is much healthier for you than other soups!

    People rave about Dentyne Ice and they are not kidding. Get plenty!

    Yogurt (acidophilous) was not at all something I wanted to eat, but I got pretty nasty thrush and yeast infections from the antibiotic and this helps prevent it.

    Ask your doctor before your surgery to prescribe you an anti-nausea medication. Trust me, this is a HUGE help. Feeling nauseated from pain meds seems to be one of the major issues that people have post-op. You may want to also get a stool softener to take daily to prevent other issues from the pain medication.

    Get 2 ice packs (so you can always have a cold one available) to put on the outside of your neck for the first few days. It makes a huge difference. These are the ones I used:

    Do not sleep in a bed if you can help it. A recliner with a neck pillow will be less painful.

    USE A HUMIDIFIER. I cannot stress this enough.

    Get a piece of paper or dry-erase marker board to keep track of your medications and when you take them. It becomes kind of confusing, especially when you are not sleeping as much.

    A heating pad is crucial for those first days where you start to eat. You are going to have major ear pain that often coincides with eating, and I would wrap this around my head and the pain would subside pretty much immediately. This is the one I used (it was nice and long)

    Brush your tongue with baking soda and rinse with Biotene. It will help keep your mouth a bit cleaner (especially for thrush) and it does not have burning alcohol.

    Manuka Honey was a big lifesaver and I think helped me heal up faster than normal. I also did not have the bad smell from my scabs that a lot of people complain of. Here is the one I got:

    Liquid vitamins help keep your body going while you are not eating all that much.

    The first couple of days you will not feel as bad. Try and eat as much as you can in these few days.

    EVERYONE says this but it is probably the most important tip I can give. NEVER EVER miss your pain medication. Take it at exactly the same time every dose. If you are late with a dose, you will regret it. Also, no matter how tired you are, set an alarm so that you do not sleep for more than 2 hours without a drink of water. Again, it is a HUGE HUGE HUGE mistake not to.

    Chloroseptic spray really helps take the edge off. Especially toward the time you start eating again.

    Wet wipes are fantastic because you will likely not feel like taking a shower for a few days. This helps you feel less scrungy and more human again.

    Be ready with lots of TV/Movies. You probably won’t feel up to doing much else.

    I was lucky enough to have my mom come and take care of me, so if you are able, have someone come help you out the first week. It made a huge difference. I did not realize how hard this was all going to be to manage on my own.

    My list:

    Jello
    Eggs
    Applesauce
    Gatorade/Protein Water
    Dentyne Ice
    Cream of Wheat
    Soup
    Mashed Potatoes
    Honey
    Lime
    Popsicles
    Yogurt (acidophilous)
    Mac and Cheese
    Toast
    Margarine
    Peppermint Tea

    Neck Pillow
    Ice Trays
    Heating Pad
    Thermometer
    Chloroseptic Spray
    Anti Nausea Meds
    Humidifier
    Biotene Mouthwash
    Liquid vitamins
    Tylenol (CVS has a full strength version that is not for children)
    Wet Wipes
    Lozenges
    stool softener
    Baking Soda
    Straws

  4. I’m 17 and had my tonisils removed on the 11th of December 2012 (a month tomorrow) my main tip is to eat!!! As painful as it is.. the rougher the better. It’s excruciating but worth it because if you don’t your throat will clog up, it also knocks off the scabs and you odnt even notice it. Try and stick to your usual diet, I did my best but just with very small portions! Another thing is to drink loads and loads, I found my pain was the worst when my throat became dry, I couldn’t drink water for some reason as it was just excruciating so stuck to milk instead and when I got sick of it just had strawberry mistake :)! It’s been a month and my breath is the worst it’s been yet but maintaining a normal diet does manage to reduce bad breath after your tonsilectomy. Pain is the worst between days 3-7 I found and after that is mostly just odd bits of pain, I still get it now but it doesn’t compare to how it was:) on day 6 I was put back in hospital for 3 days after getting a blood clot which burst and led to infraction, if you get any funny symptoms I recommend going straight to your doctor, even if it turns out to be nothing. Any bleeding after day 3/4 really that is fresh (bright red) needs looking into aswell. I’m no expert but my doctor’s were great, I got loads of information sheets and advice off them, plus personal experience, I hope this is useful to anyone going through it!!

  5. Best first solid food – pumpkin pie! Had first solid food on day 6 – pumpkin pie, and it was perfect. A step up from all of the overly sweet popsicles, slushies, etc. but nothing that stuck to the back of my throat or made it burned. Also, didn’t have to chew a lot (which helps with sore jaw). I absolutely would have tried this on day 4 (maybe 5) to help balance my stomach that had nothing but liquids and pain meds. And, if you are still worried about scratchy parts of the food, just avoid the crust.

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