Tips For Tonsillectomy

My tonsillectomy story – not that bad, but tough at times.

Surgery Day: woke up after my surgery and ate a cheese sandwich and drank lots of water whilst at hospital. I tried a cup of tea, but I felt sick from anaesthetic and had to quickly ask for anti sickness tablet which nurse gave me straight away. Had to take some deep breaths and fight off being sick for about 30mins. Luckily I managed to get through it and wasn’t sick. Throat was sore 5/10 and built to about 7/10 until I took paracetamol and 1 x codeine just before leaving the ward to go home about 5hrs after surgery. Came home and ate a cadburys chocolate mini roll, lots more water. Tried an ice lolly but made throat sting. Surgeon advised eating normally as quickly as possible to speed up recovery (his exact words were “you must eat through the pain”) so I braved some oven cooked boneless chicken thighs (wrapped in foil during cooking to keep it moist), mashed potato and peas with gravy. Ate quite a lot and just powered through the pain of swallowing (5/10). I was keen to follow his very clear advice of keeping to normal diet despite the pain alongside drinking water regularly.

Slept a lot on sofa and then went to bed with a humidifier on full (this seemed to really help). Woke up at 4am (pain back to 7/10 ish), took some more pain killers (paracetamol
& ibuprofen) and went back to sleep.

Recovery

Day 1: woke up at 8am ish (after a good 9hrs sleep). Pain was a 4/10 when swallowing. Had some bran flakes with nutty cereal on top with milk and water. 10:30 ish took paracetamol and ibuprofen which took pain down to a 3/10 when swallowing. 1/10 when not swallowing. Ate a biscuit and slightly warm cup of tea at 11:00 which was fine. Had some coarse chicken soup (expensive brand stuff with chunks etc) with ciabatta bread, washed down with water. Pain was 3/10 when swallowing.   In evening I had some chicken pasta with cheese. Swallowing was 5/10. No codeine required on day 2 and it was an absolute breeze really.

Day 2: woke up in a lot of pain in middle of night, took some codeine went back to sleep. In the morning (07:00ish) I woke up with 8-9/10 ish pain whilst swallowing. Found it very hard to even drink water & was close to tears on a couple of swallows. Had to get my wife to crush up some paracetamol and dissolve into water for drinking to get some pain meds in me. Bad Ear pain was also present. Forced 2 codeine tabs down as well (more about this later). This was the most painful point so far and I couldn’t imagine it getting much worse, so hoped it wouldn’t! I remember thinking eating was going to be a real challenge on day 2 and I was not sure I would be able to if pain stayed as it was. Sat in bed for 45mins waiting for pain meds to bring my score down to below a 5, which they did. Managed to get up and eat some breakfast cereal & cup of tea at about 08:00 pain about 4/10. Then was totally out of it (slept like a baby on sofa) due to Codeine effects until about 12:30.
Took another 2 crushed paracetamol with water to take edge off of pain again as meds had started to wear off. When down to 3/10 I ate some beans & poached eggs on toast followed by a bottle of Mars Milk. After this my throats felt best it had all day 1/10 pain. Took ibuprofen at 16:00 ish and had a donut and cup of tea at 17:00. Evening meal (after more paracetamol) was diced lamb with roasted potatoes, peppers, onions & mushrooms.
Pain at times this day was bad (morning by far the worst), but not unbearable or anything I couldn’t cope with. I was learning fast that pain meds timing/planning is essential!

Day 3: Took 2 x codeine before sleep 22:30 ish. Woke up at 03:00 and took 2 x ibuprofen. Woke up at 07:00 ish and pain was 5/10. Took 2 x paracetamol and then had breakfast, cereal and toast at 08:00. Pain was only 2/10. Throat seems much less swollen today and I even managed an espresso coffee for the first time. Another day of rest on the sofa with regular food, water and chewing gum planned. 12:30 ate some more beans on toast with poached eggs for protein. Evening ate some creamy chicken pasta. Pain on day 4 was very manageable with rotation of ibuprofen and paracetamol.

Day 4: pain back with a vengeance during the night. Two doses of codeine and one ibuprofen haven’t really touched it. 8/10 again when swallowing. Paracetamol crushed in water when I woke up. Certainly it’s the night time when you’re not swallowing and drinking as much when the pain comes and screws you over. I’ve still slept well however as the codeine seems to knock me unconscious for a good 4hrs after taking it. My only fear now is running out of codeine before things improve significantly when sleeping. Paracetamol on board I brace the morning breakfast routine once again in the hope it will scrape away some of the dead white tissue scabs that line my throat making it smell and look like something from an alien movie. Pretty naff day drifting in and out of consciousness due to meds. Ate leftover pasta from last night for lunch. Chicken, potatoes and peas for dinner. Pain 5/10 at times, but since this morning mainly 3/10. Almost time for bed, oh no, not bedtime! I now have to dread waking up in the night and tomorrow morning once again! I tell myself it’s nothing we can’t handle ‘again’, take 2 x codeine and settle in for the night!

Day 5: Day 4 repeated, there seems no end in sight. When I drank water this morning it felt like I had been stabbed in the throat by a light sabre! Left side (which was my biggest tonsil) is the one that hurts. Right side is feeling fine. Pain meds down and get ready for another day of powering through with the hope tomorrow might bring some better news… On a separate note, I think the scabs are now starting to recede slightly. The hole on the left side is v deep so this is obviously going to take much longer to repair/recover.

Day 6: The worst day so far by a mile! Without meds 9/10 pain when swallowing. Took more painkillers than I can remember. Had to contact doctors for a repeat prescription of codeine as I nearly ran out. Scabs are falling off leaving bare flesh and holes through to what feels like the nerve endings. Eating was a real struggle without having crushed paracetamol drink 20 mins before. Even water shook me to my bones at times. Pain in ears and teeth.

Day 7: firstly during the night I took more pain killers in an 8hr period than I have since operation! The pain quite simply actually bought tears to my eyes (10/10) at times when swallowing. Shooting pain up through both ears was simply horrible, but I survived of course. When I woke up my wife asked how I felt and I said I think about 1% better than I did yesterday. She said “that’s positive then”. Which was true because this is the first day I had actually felt slightly better than the previous day in the morning. Having said that I was unable to eat breakfast other than a few mouthfuls of cereal as even my trusty paracetamol crush drink didn’t help enough. I drank a cup of tea and then as the weather was looking great I went outside and chilled on my hanging chair in the garden for the day. As the day has gone by I have drank plenty of fluids, water, tea, coffee, ate lunch and dinner and my throat seems to have improved a lot (I think). The scabs are now getting much smaller and wearing off/thinner and I’ve only had to take pain killers when wanting to eat something. Hope I’m not wrong but it feels like the tide is finally starting to turn and I might be getting some good improvements! I guess tonight/tomorrow morning will be the true test! 🙂

Day 8: For the first time since the operation I managed through the night with only 1 top up of pain killers. Pain at worst 6/10 a good improvement on previous nights. Managed to eat all my breakfast this morning and had an espresso coffee again. Paracetamol this morning has taken pain down to 1/10 when swallowing and I’m starting to feel human again. Hoping that this is now the start of significant improvement and recovery back to normal. Throat looks a lot less angry and on its way to healing. Rest of the day I did require paracetamol and ibuprofen rotation, but much longer between them. At bedtime I decided not to take any codeine and to see how I got on during the night.

Day 9: No Codeine required on day 9, just onto a rotation of paracetamol and ibuprofen  every 6 hours. Pain almost gone when swallowing and eating is now getting pretty easy. Throat feels so much better and scabs are almost gone. Off to the supermarket later to get a few more things and have a journey out of the house for the first time since the operation. Looking to go back to work later this week.

What did I learn/best advice:

1. Painkillers are your best friend. Don’t be shy and take them regularly. Crushing up paracetamol tablets in water and drinking this 10mins before you eat really helps.

2. Rest completely, don’t plan to do anything for at least 8 days.

3. Sleep is your second best friend and worst enemy (as your throats will dry out). I would suggest setting a timer and taking pain meds during the night regularly rather than just waking up as I did and then having to take them. I however valued solid blocks of sleeping over being severe pain free. I just gutted out the really painful points waiting for pain meds to kick in.

4. Trust in the advice to eat normally and eat through the pain. Don’t let your mind start thinking your throat is infected etc. It isn’t it just gets more painful as the days go on.

5. Drink water, drink more water, drink again!

6. Purchase a humidifier for the evenings while you sleep.

7. Avoid eating anything acidic, e.g. tomato based sauces, citrus fruits. Avoid also sticky things like chocolate that sticks to throat & needs washing away.

8. Luke warm drinks tea etc can help sooth throat after day 3 when swelling has gone down.

9. Eating dairy products didn’t cause lots of mucus like some people say.

All in all, it’s been tough at times, particularly in the morning and night, but I’ve got through it. Have to be willing to tough it out, take plenty of pain killers until you rattle, complete rest, eat through the pain as much as you can as regularly as you can & drink lots of water and you will get through it too!

Good luck with your tonsillectomy, follow the advice of your surgeon, be prepared and you’ll get through.

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