Tonsillectomy Recovery Time



Tonsillectomy recovery time is unique for each patient. Recovery time for children is much shorter than for adults, with seemingly less pain. My own eight year old son was back to his old self in less than a week after his tonsillectomy. This may have fanned the flames of my unreasonable expectations of my own  recovery time as an adult. His was fairly typical of a child his age. Children’s bodies heal faster than adults’ do.

Recovery for an adult is a different story. Age matters. In fact, it appears that the older an adult is at the time of their tonsillectomy, the longer the recovery is, in general. Based on my own adult tonsillectomy recovery, and the stories of thousands of my readers, I’d put the average adult tonsillectomy recovery time at approximately 10.43 days. Yes, I’m that good!

Humor aside, ten days seems to be pretty typical. I added the .43 because so many people, myself included, thought they had it licked and went back to work around day ten, only to find they weren’t quite ready. As scabs slough off in second week of recovery, many adults experience a bit of a pain relapse, just as they thought they were almost recovered. This is a really tough period for many. They’ve spent almost two weeks with minimal sleep, minimal nourishment, minimal activity, and lots of pain medicine. It can be downright depressing for adults recovering in this second week.

Check out our new tonsillectomy recovery video- Caution: Not always pretty

I do hear from many adults whose recovery times are closer to a week – perhaps due to my good advice, perhaps due to genetics. It’s hard to say why some adults’ recovery times are shorter, and their experiences less traumatic. There are also cases that drag out further. If you’re one of a small minority that requires re-cauterization for bleeding, or don’t take the proper precautions, (many of these are outlined here and in my book), your tonsillectomy recovery time may be as much as three or four weeks. I want to make an important point here- one that I cannot overemphasis: Stay hydrated! Keep drinking fluids! Dehydration is the worst enemy of the tonsillectomy patient.

My advice: ask your employer, your family, your friends, and the rest of the world to give you two weeks for your adult tonsillectomy. You may surprise them, hopefully for the better.

Recovery is unique to each individual- sure.  We know that recovery time for adults is longer, and maybe harder, than for children. I remember my own son bouncing back in less than a week! My own experience taught me that ten days off from a job that required lots of talking was a bit light.  I generally advise two weeks.  As I’ve said, most employers will let you come back early.  That’s easier than asking for more time after the fact. I’ve read the accounts of thousands of tonsillectomy patients- most of them adults. I’ve learned that the time required varies. I wonder though, how many tonsillectomy patients never really post about their experience.
Are you one of those quiet ones lying in the weeds? I’d like to get a better feel for the average adult tonsillectomy recovery time. Please take a moment and share your own experience in recovering from tonsillectomy surgery. You can help us all!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
Tonsillectomy General Store.

Tonsillectomy Recovery Time

-Greg Tooke 

81 comments on “Tonsillectomy Recovery Time
  1. John Sturman says:

    Male age 44 tonsillectomy.
    Immediately post op. I was in a lot of pain which was only just dealt with by oromorph. I was close to being admitted to the High Dependency Unit for IV morphine. I was kept in hospital overnight.
    The next day the pain had subsided and I was given ibuprofen and paracetamol to take home, prescribed by the surgeon.
    The only thing that helped the pain was some ice cream.
    The pain day 2 and 3 was 3/10, nothing worse than a normal sore throat and I was able to eat reasonably normally.
    Day 4 I woke with my throat in much more pain. I had very dense scabs in tonsil spaces, some of which sloughed off after a bit of food. Swallowing became painful.
    Day 5 the pain was now up to a 9/10 and the meds. had no effect. Not sleeping and unable to eat or drink. Swallowing sips of water was excruciating.
    Day 6 early hours the pain was 10/10 and almost unbearable. Couldn’t even think and was desperate. Went back to emergency dept. at hospital. Put on IV paracetamol drip and Diclofenac with oral liquid co-codamol. Pain then eased to bearable level in emergency room.
    Prescribed 1000mg tablets of co-codamol, 50mg Diclofenac, anaesthetic throat spray and advised to also take Tramadol when pain was bad. Also given antibiotics in case of any infection.
    Day 7-9 pain was 10/10 unless I took all the prescribed meds. which completely knocked me out, either to sleep or floating around the room. Was scared to sleep as this dried out my throat and when I woke it felt like my throat was being blow torched, until the next meds. took effect.
    Days 10-11 had the pain slowly easing off enabling me to drop my meds dosage, come off the Tramadol and co-codamol. Finally being able to eat small amounts of food, though swallowing still very painful.
    Day 12 had the pain drop to a background of 4/10 and meds. down to 2 Diclofenac a day.
    Day 13 was first day I started to feel a bit like myself. Energy levels returning and able to do some normal low level activities but still with background pain around 3/10.
    Day 14 was the first day background pain occasionally became unnoticeable, though swallowing still hurt but only at a level around 3/10.
    Day 15 was first day without and meds. Occasional background pain with swallowing at level of 2/10. Able to eat and drink normally for the first time.
    Day 16 and 17 has background pain only on waking up for around first half hour. Swallowing pain getting slightly better each day. Able to function normally.
    Overall, a much worse recovery than anticipated, with several days where even swallowing was so painfull I couldn’t eat or drink anything – getting dehydrated and an unbearable background pain, taking me back into hospital. The only answer was to get so dosed up on painkillers I was completely spaced out.
    Now on Day 17 and still recovering, with typical sore throat level pain when swallowing.
    Scabs now just thin covering of tonsil spaces. Uvula almost back to normal size.

  2. Johnny says:

    I’m 57 and had a tonsillectomy for stones and snoring. Recovery was fairly smooth but eeven after over 5 weeks my back palate still feels rough. No pain, just a feeling of having to hack and spit something out. Feels like it goes up into my nasal cavity. I heard tonsillectomy in adults can be rough with a long recovery and mine was no exception.

  3. karen says:

    Im going on 3weeks since surgery I feel ok now still get pain but nothing I cant handle and I had the same problem with feeling like something was stuck in the back of my throat and I was told it the uvula the thing that hangs from the roof of your mouth mine was so swollen and all I wanted to do was swallow which made the pain worse … it does get better good luck and hopefully you have a fast revovery

    • Adriannah says:

      Thank you it really hurts when I try to swallow now but so far I’ve been alright and I’m even going to attempt going to school tomorrow. Hopefully it works out alright

    • Adriannah says:

      Glad you feel better my throat is pretty much cleared but I still have a lot of pain and my uvula is swollen still.

  4. Adriannah says:

    I am 17 years old and I just had a tonsillectomy Tuesday December 30. At first I was ok. I was able to talk but my throat was a little bit sore and I had a horrible taste in my mouth. I was also very dizzy and could barely walk. I got home and I was really hungry so I tried to eat noodles it was going fine but then I started feeling nauseated so my mom gave me one of the pills that’s supposed to help with that. Needless to say it made it worse I wound up throwing up in the hallway. That hurt like heck. Pain didn’t hit me really badly until the day after my surgery. Then it was unbearable. I would feel better and then it would come back feeling 10x worse. Then on New Year’s Eve I wanted to watch fireworks and I was feeling pretty good so my parents let me. I regretted it the next day because I woke up at 3:00 in the morning crying my throat was hurting so bad. The past few days I’ve been able to eat a few solid things. I actually found that if you eat cabbage while its still warm it works wonders for your throat. This morning I woke up crying again but this time it was because not only was my throat hurting but it feels like there’s something stuck in my throat and it hurts really bad when I swallow. Does anyone know what it is?

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