After Tonsillectomy- What to Expect

What to Expect After Tonsillectomy

Post-op, you’ll probably awake in a different room from the one you were first brought to. This recovery room is where the staff will observe to to see that you aren’t having complications from anything from bleeding to reactions to the anesthesia. You might be given something soft to eat, like gelatin. Depending on where you live, you will most likely be released that same day, once the staff deems you fit to leave. After being under anesthesia, you will not be allowed to drive. An adult will have to take you home.

Post Op: Tonsillectomy Medicines

You’ll probably have two medicines prescribed when you leave the hospital; a pain killer like percocet or hydrocodone, and an antibiotic like penicillin. You may also want to ask for a stool softener. The narcotic pain killers can have a profound constipating effect. Another post tonsillectomy medicine that might be beneficial is an anti nausea drug like promethizine. It can help counteract this side- effect of the pain medicine. Finally, ask your doctor about a steroid to reduce swelling. One of the first things you’ll fight with after tonsil surgery is a swollen uvula. Swallowing can be almost impossible with that inflamed thing swelling up like a punching bag.

Some tips for the first days after surgery

Begin icing the throat area immediately. This reduces swelling and makes drinking precious fluids more tolerable. Just do it, and keep doing it. Have a comfortable recliner set up. Lying flat can make breathing difficult and seems to aggravate the throat area. Be sure to have a humidifier or vaporizor to keep the air moist. If possible, have someone stay with you for those first days. You may think post tonsillectomy will be a great time to catch up on reading. It probably won’t. The medications make it a little tough to concentrate. Watching movies is probably going to be more enjoyable as you recover.

Don’t continually look at your throat. It will look awful. Here’s an example:

After Tonsillectomy

Many people become obsessed with how the area looks. Let it go. As long as you’re not having alot of bleeding, it’s probably fine.

Pain After Tonsillectomy

Most adults describe the first day or two after surgery as, “the honeymoon.” “This isn’t so bad!” This is partly because you’ll still have some of the general anesthesia in your system. Things typically get worse days two and three. From there, the pain will ebb and flow, with days seven and eight often being the worst.

The best advice I can give about managing pain after tonsillectomy is as follows: Stay hydrated. take pain medicines on a strict schedule. Run a humidifier. Ice the affected area often. Try to stay positive and keep your mind on other things. There is a strong psychological component to pain. Sleep with your head elevated. Keep Drinking Water!!

What to look out for

The top risk post tonsillectomy is bleeding. Some bleeding is normal. Gargling with cold water will usually stop the bleeding. If it does not, and you find more than a couple tablespoons of blood, it’s time to get to an emergency room. Don’t panic- this can easily be treated, but time is important. Get in. Get it fixed.

Another problem after tonsillectomy is oral thrush. Largely due to the antibiotics you may be taking. A white film and soreness on the tongue are usually a sign that you have thrush. Some have luck eating probiotics like yogurt. Others report that a tongue scraper helps. I recommend calling your doctor’s office.

A side effect many don’t anticipate, or even realize they are experiencing, is depression.  Prolonged use of pain medicines and the subsequent withdrawal from them, can have a chemically depressing effect on a person.  Likewise days and days of pain, poor sleep, and poor diet, can also wear a person down.

Tonsillectomy Recovery Time

One of the most common questions is, “how long will it take to recovery from an adult tonsillectomy?” Well, it varies. I’d recommend taking two full weeks off from work. You may feel well enough to return to work sooner, but you may not. Informal surveys that I’ve conducted indicate an average tonsillectomy recovery time for adults to be about 10 or 11 days.

Longer Term- What to expect weeks and months post-op

As your throat heal, one of the first things you’ll notice is a change in your sense of taste. This is very common and can last from two weeks to to several months. It almost always returns to normal though.

The other thing you’ll probably notice after your throat has done most of its healing is a loose feeling back there. It’s almost as if there isn;t quite a tight seal between the back of the nostrils and the throat. again, this is normal. It can take several months for all of this tissue to firm back up, but it will.

Finally, you’ll probably have a much better life after your tonsillectomy. Depending on your reasons going into the surgery, you will most likely sleep better, get sick less, and have better breath!

Best of luck to you. Please explore the rest of this site for more in-depth descriptions, as well as personal stories and photos from readers.
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  1. I was 10 and on my fifth day after surgery, my parents had to rush me back to the hospital and have my adenoids removed. It’s scary when you have blood running down your nose and also throwing up blood. I stayed two weeks in the hospital with one bag of blood and one bag of saline going down into your veins. That was 55 years ago. I am glad it’s not like that anymore.

  2. Any suggestion for humidifiers? My boyfriend is 39 and going under the knife on Tuesday so I’d like to get him one

    1. I too went under today! I’ve been using one off amazon for my asthma and when I’m sick in the past. So I think it will work as well! They don’t sell the one I use anymore but this is similar URPOWER 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser Aroma Essential Oil Cool Mist Humidifier with Adjustable Mist Mode,Waterless Auto Shut-off and 7 Color LED Lights Changing for Home Office Baby

  3. I’m 18 years old and on day 13. Scans are about 95% off and all swelling has gone down. Day 11 was when I was able to eat regular food again, with paintable pain. Now it just feels like a slight double ear infection. When I swallow I mostly feel it in my ears and not my throat. However, I’m still snoring, a lot. Will this go away with time?

  4. So I had my tonsils out over a month ago (June 8th), and since then my uvula has been swollen. I cannot say anything with a long wl sound: bowl, whole, etc… I have chatted to the doc who said to sit tight for two weeks (which is up on Tuesday). Anyone else experienced similar and/or have ideas how to resolve the swollen uvula?

    1. Yes Im on almost on week four and I still cant quite blow my nose, have a swollen uvula and the tissue around it is still quite swollen so the new space at the back of my throat is smaller than it is meant to be.

      Ive just lost my sense of taste, everything tastes metallic. It sucks. BUT Im so much healthier. I guess I just have to wait for a few months to be fully healed.

      Theres not much online about it which is stink.

      1. Hello. How are you now? I am four weeks post op from my tonsilectomy and it feels like my uvula is sitting on my tongue and still hard to breath while laying flat. I also am having a hard time blowing my nose sometimes I can and sometimes something stops me. I am wondering if the soft palate can swell up for a long time?

  5. I was 12 when i got this done, i also have a phobia of taking medication so i did it all without any! I was in alot of pain, but i could eat softer foods good and drink wster fine. The only problem is that , years after the sugery, my tongue feels diffrent and it can hurt if i stick it out to far… Is this a side effect? Because i never had this until after surgery.

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