Guerrilla Tactics for Surviving Adult Tonsillectomy

Guerrilla Tactics – Adult Tonsillectomy Tips

Adult Tonsillectomy Tips
Adult Tonsillectomy Tips

So you’ve read my top 10 tonsillectomy tips.  Good. Those will get you through. But some of us like to operate outside of the conventional. The top ten are solid pearls of wisdom that anyone can benefit from, regardless of their personality. Let’s face it- not everyone is comfortable making demands on their doctor, pharmacist, employer, or family. For those of you who are though, I offer the following guerrilla tactic adult tonsillectomy tips.

Advocating for Yourself

The cornerstone of these tips is self advocacy. By researching the internet and finding this site, you’re already ahead of the masses. Like me a few years ago, most adults go into tonsillectomy surgery like sheep. They take the information from their doctor and perhaps nurse and press forward without questioning. Sometimes this works out fine. Some ENT doc’s and their staff do a great job of preparing their patients for tonsillectomy surgery and its subsequent recovery period. Some don’t.  Some employers respect their employee’s judgement of what their needs are in regard to recovering from adult tonsillectomy. Some don’t. It’s up to us to make sure that we get what we need. Take those first 10 tips and you’ll be ahead of the pack. Take a few of these and lead it.

Work- Taking Time Off

I’ve researched the time required for adult tonsillectomy recovery. I can tell you that ten days is about the minimum. I would tell your boss that two weeks is the minimum. You may need two full weeks. You may not though. If not, you’ll look tough as nails as you come back to work ahead of schedule! If the boss gives you grief about two full weeks, refer him or her to this website. Let them read about the experiences people have. It will open their eyes the way it has yours.

Your Family- Asking for Help

This is a tough one. Most people struggle when it comes to asking for help. Get over it. You are going to be worthless for at least a week. Don’t spread yourself thin. You don’t want anyone counting on you. Have a heart to heart talk with your spouse, mother, brother- whoever might pick up the slack for you. You might be surprised. I was recently divorced with four children when I had my surgery. My ex wife and I were not on good terms. It was a jagged pill to swallow, but I asked for her help. She covered the kids for a full week and even took a nice video of a holiday concert I had to miss. Be direct. Be specific. Ask for help.

Your Doctor- Be Assertive

Here are few adult tonsillectomy tips that you won’t find in the literature in your doctor’s waiting room. They just might make your life a lot better though.


  • Ask for a steroid.  I’m not giving medical advice here.  I’m not a doctor.  When you talk to your doctor, ask for a steroid.  The first challenge most adults face after tonsillectomy is a hugely swollen uvula.  No kidding- that thing can swell up so much that it’s hard to swallow and breath. Icing can help, so can gargling with ice cold water, but a steroid will do even more.  Just ask.
  • Ask for a stool softener.  Narcotic pain medicines will constipate you.  Many people go for over a week without a bowel movement.
  • Ask for an anti nausea drug.  Those pain killers that help so much can really do a number on your system.  You won’t be eating much, so nausea is a pretty likely side effect.
  • Get an order for ENOUGH PAIN MEDICINE TO LAST THROUGH RECOVERY.  This one makes me furious.  My doctor wrote an order for enough hydrocodone to last about four days.  If you’ve read enough accounts, you know that that’s about the time the pain gets worst.  I ran out in the middle of the night.  I had to wait until morning to ask for a refill.  The staff acted like I was some drug seeking junkie.  Don’t accept this.  I finally walked into the ER.  The doctor there understood completely and thought my ENT was a jerk. He wrote a prescription to cover the next week. I did not become a drug addict.
  • Ask for your pain medicine prescription to NOT include Acetaminophen. This is a tricky one. Most narcotic pain med’s contain Acetaminophen.  That’s fine if it’s the only thing you’re taking.  But at some point, you’ll want to ween off the heavy pain killers in favor of an over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol. (Acetaminophen) Suppose you try this and BAM- not cutting it.  You’ll want to go back to the narcotic pain medicine. But wait, how much Acetaminophen do you have on board? Too much can be very dangerous.  Keeping the two separate allows you to monitor this more easily.
  • Ask for IV fluids.  Yes, why not?  A nurse on the forum suggested this and I thought it was brilliant.  So many people become dehydrated while recovering from adult tonsillectomy because swallowing is so difficult.  Knowing that she was seriously dehydrated, this brave and smart woman walked into an emergency room and asked for a bag of IV fluid.  She got it and was no longer dehydrated. You might have a conversation with your doctor about this in advance.
  • TETRACAINE MEDICATED LOLLIPOPS -I never got them but people rave about the relief they give.  Ask your Doctor.

Well there you have it- the insider’s guide to adult tonsillectomy recovery.  You may feel like a pain asking for these things.  You may feel less pain because you do.  I wish you well.

Do you have a Jedi mind trick or ninja tactic for getting the upper hand in tonsillectomy recovery?  Please share in the comment section.  Thanks, -Greg


  1. A few interesting notes following my tonsillectomy yesterday:

    1) I asked my surgeon about the tetracaine lollies, and he said that he rarely uses them because patients misuse them too often which can cause nasty side effects. For example, only a few licks are needed to numb things, but because they are lollies, adults and kids both tend to forget and ingest more than that which can cause a dangerous condition where there is an issue with hemoglobin in the blood becoming dangerously low (I think that’s what he said anyways).

    2) Apparently, I hardly bled at all during my tonsillectomy, and he wasn’t using a laser–forget which method he used. However, there was very little bleeding, and when my tonsils came out, he found a bunch of tonsil stones. I must have been collecting them to cough up at a later date as I’ve been doing that for months now…just hacking them up whenever–annoying.

    3) I know I’m still in the honeymoon period as it’s not quite been 24 hours yet, but I’m on a combination of toradol (awesome antiflammatory) with tramodol and amoxicillin. I’m not getting a lot of sleep because of the med schedule, but I’m dozing and not in pain, so I’ll take it. I also want to have that nailed down so I don’t suddenly have screaming horrible pain.

    4) Sipping ice water every 15 minutes or as soon as it starts to get dry really, really helps. The sugar from the gatorade was too much until I mixed it 50/50 with water. When I’m sleeping, I make sure to get up every hour and swish water around until I’m not thirsty or dry at all. All the suggestions for using a humidifier are also great!

    5) Since I couldn’t get the tetracaine lollies, I went for over the counter children’s pectin pops. They offer a mild numbing effect to help right before eating/taking meds, if I need it. Other useful items are gum, stool softener (not laxative), chloraseptic spray without alcohol as well as ear relief drops. I found kids iburprofen and tylenol in liquid forms in case there is trouble swallowing after the heavy duty meds wear off.

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