Tonsillectomy Recovery Child vs Adult
As many of my readers know, I had a tonsillectomy at the age of 44. You can read all about it on my home page. What many do not know is that prior to my surgery, my son underwent tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at the age of 8. Observing his tonsillectomy recovery, children having a much faster recovery, may have contributed to my unrealistic expectation of my own experience with the surgery and recovery.
Child Tonsillectomy Recovery – What to Expect
So, what’s the difference? From personal observation and research, I’ve learned that tonsillectomy recovery in children is shorter and, by all indications, is less painful than for adults. While most adults report a minimum of ten to fourteen days’ recovery time, children generally are back to normal activities in seven to ten -often even sooner. It appears that younger folks simply heal faster. Just like a broken bone, the cuts made in tonsillectomy surgery heal more quickly in pediatric patients than their adult counterparts.
Day of Surgery
It’s a good idea to talk to your child in an age appropriate manner about what to expect. Knowing what is coming makes an experience less stressful, especially for children who have less control over what is happening. Your child will probably have their tonsillectomy as a day surgery. In other words, unless there are complications, (rare), he or she will be discharged the day the tonsillectomy is performed.
Before surgery, a pediatric anesthesiologist will meet with you and your child. A general anesthesia will be used. These days, the anesthesiologist stays with the patient throughout the surgery. He or she will also stay to observe your child after surgery. The surgery itself usually takes less than an hour.
After your child’s tonsillectomy, they will be moved to a recovery room and observed by nursing staff. Usually a patient must be able to eat a soft food like Jell-O before being released. Upon discharge, you’ll be given a prescription for pain medicine. This should be written for enough medicine to cover the child’s entire tonsillectomy recovery time. (If not, ask why)
For the fist twenty four hours after surgery, someone should be with the child. Medicines from the anesthesia will remain present in your child’s system during this time. There will be significant swelling of the uvula and other areas around the throat. Icing can help reduce this swelling. This will also reduce pain significantly during the first day of recovery. Many patients describe a, “honeymoon,” during their first day. It’s very important to keep your child hydrated during the entire recovery period.
As the general anesthesia leaves their system, you’ll shift to the prescribed pain medicines. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Even if your child does not complain of significant pain, it’s a good idea to stay on the medication schedule.
Continue to push fluids throughout the recovery period. Offering popsicles and good tasting liquids can help encourage the young patient to stay hydrated. Offer soft foods like Jell-O, apple sauce, or scrambled eggs. Avoid spicy or acidic food or beverage, as the tissues will be very sensitive. For more suggestions on what to eat after tonsillectomy, check out an article on the blog: Eating After Tonsillectomy
Child Tonsillectomy Side Effects and Risks
The most common risk associated with adult or child tonsillectomy is bleeding during recovery. Some bleeding is quite normal, and can usually be stopped by gargling with cold water. Most doctors recommend emergency treatment if the bleeding does not stop or is in excess of a few tablespoons. Information varies, but I’ve read estimates between 2% and 5% of pediatric tonsillectomy patients require emergency treatment for hemorrhage, usually by cauterization.
Another common side effect experienced during adult or child tonsillectomy recovery is ear pain. Because of nerves that run between the ear nose and throat areas, a trauma in one area, like the throat, can refer to another, like the ears. This referred pain can usually be eased with a warm compress. Chewing gum can also help.
Pain and difficulty in swallowing are the main side effects that most patients deal with. This can lead to another side effect: dehydration. It’s important to keep your child hydrated throughout their recovery period. Dehydration can prolong child tonsillectomy recovery time, and increase pain levels.
Pain levels will probably increase from days two to five. Scabs form and then fall off. In children, scabs usually fall off around day five. Your child may complain of sharp pains at this time. Watch for bleeding as the scabs slough off.
Images of Child Tonsillectomy Recovery
Other Tips for a Better Child Tonsillectomy Recovery
The risks from tonsillectomy surgery are not markedly different for children than adults. The recovery for children is usually shorter and, perhaps, less painful. The side effects are virtually the same. I encourage you to read over the other areas of this website to prepare and help your child recover from tonsillectomy.
For a list of tips. please check out Greg’s Tonsillectomy Recovery Tips.
Fell free to add your questions, concerns, and tips in the comment section below.
Thanks, Greg Tooke My short bio
Monday Jan.23.2017 my son, 12 and daughter 10 had Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy. I read this and other articles multiple times and took notes. Little nervous for them, a few years back one of their older sisters didn’t have the best recovery, she was also 12.
So we went in, all was well, one went in and then the other. My daughter came out, not typically a nauseous type. When I got into the room with her she looked great (compared to her older sister back in 2013) she was having a slushy. She said she felt ok, she seemed ify on that statement. Not even 15 min in that recovery room with me, the nurse was going to take out her IV. This I’d recommend not allowing for at least 30-45 min. My daughter spit up, a lot! The nurse joked “oh lucky I left the IV in” was not happy with her from this point one. She should have given her (or called for) nausea meds to help with coming out of surgery. She kept in the IV fluid only. About 45 min later my son rolled in and I mentioned to the nurse that he usually is my weaker stomach child of the two. She didn’t listen and only said everyone’s different, she didn’t end that sentence and he was puking every where. “Always listen to a mom!!!” Well she for some idiotic reason took my daughters IV out and ended up calling for nausea meds for my son. Note: once the IV is out they wouldn’t give her anything for her nausea and she continued to get sick. And not just there, but through the day and into the night until I’m assuming the anesthesia meds ran their course. My son I believe puked once again at home after the nausea meds given. Big difference. Well they discharged them both, and I was happy, they were no help.
I started their prescription and Motrin (rotating) about 6 hrs after they got out of surgery. And kept that up through the night and until early the third day. I did a few times wait till the 5th hour when they would say “it’s not too bad yet” but not usually longer. And younger kids I wouldn’t probably ask. Only because you really have to stay ahead of the pain. I believe that was the problem with my daughters pain years before and the fact the doctor went from Tylenol with codeine with that first daughter to now using Oxycodone with these surgeries.
And you go through the Motrin fast, stay stocked!!
I also, to be sure there was no room for error set up a vaporizer in the living room where we set up their mattresses. Very nice having the kitchen and a bathroom close and never any need to be too far if they needed me!! (I slept on sofa) And set an alarm every 2 hours to keep up with their meds. Make sure you can hear the alarm, I used my phone once and must have slept through it. Luckily they were still fine!! The first two days i used the stove timer. And I kept a soft light on first two nights so they could see their buckets they got from the hospital to spit up in. Helped me more, didn’t want to shampoo carpets after this was all done. Another reason we avoided anything red as well, and incase their sores bled, which they haven’t.
Kept there ice bags full with ice for their necks, kept water near their beds and made them sip at least when given meds and giving as many popsicles as they wanted, which surprisingly they didn’t have as many as I thought they’d have, or want. Two or three a day. Hydration helps healing!!
Also, they had so much mucus the first 2 days and had a hard time getting use to their new throats and the new swallowing sensation they were new too. Reminding them that they weren’t going to get sick every time they swallowed and that it was going to take time to get use to their new throats, seemed to help. Also we kept their heads slightly elevated as they slept and encouraged them to stay on their backs those first couple days. Incase they did vomit. Again as time went on we realized it was only mucus they were spitting up. Another good reason to stay away from any foods besides the softer types. I believe it really helped to allow the scabs to form and fall
Off on their own. I reminded the kids (even though only I prepared their food) not to try anything scratchy or hard like chips or pizza, scabs when picked, bleed, ones left alone typically fall off with new skin underneath.
Anyway, applesauce and popsicles the first day. Tried mashed potatoes and ramen noodles. They love potatoes but I think they were just to thick, even mashed, they never asked for them again and only tried a bite. Same with jello, gave some second day, they didn’t want but did finally ask again on day 5.
Early the second day gave oatmeal and late the second day we allowed Mac and Cheese. They loved both! Those and the ramen has been their main meals.
Today is day 6 and they are having pancakes. They didn’t want to try milk straight yet. Tonight we’ll try given lasagna?!
Still taken medicine as needed. Thursday and Friday they only needed the stronger meds at night. Actually my son did. From day three and on my daughter has only taken the Motrin. (Higher pain tolerance) I think like I read, day 3 and 4 were more sensitive days. They started tasting and smelling, I think their scabs. (Gross I know) that’s continued even on this 6th day. I also looked in their mouths on day 3 and they both complained of pain shortly after, I could be wrong but I think the stretching open their mouths loosened scabs and caused pain. Told them not to show me or anyone their sores after that:)
Well I’ll probably keep them in the living room until their post Op appt Tuesday. But it’s gotten easier and as pain free as I think possible. And the last couple nights I’ll ask If they need meds and usually they’re fine until very early morning.
I know it’s harder for adults and the older you get, but a very close family friend said her 18 yr old was fine until one night (3rd night I believe) they decided to allow him to sleep through the night (maybe themselves too) and he had literally weeks of trouble after that and on the 19th day started bleeding so badly they took him into ER Christmas Day:( Also being a teen he may have not been eating properly but it does sound like swaying off of pain relievers played a big part.
Do it for your kids!!!
I know if pain gets bad it has nothing to do with level of love but stay safe so they aren’t sorry. I hope my older daughter had it rough cause of the “pain reliever” difference prescribed between what she got and what these younger two got.
But I still feel bad and she’s fine now:)
Blessings and quick recoveries for you all and your loved ones!!
I was bleeding a lot and it started June 10 at 10:00 and ended at 3:00. I had to go to the emergency room in a ambulance. It was awesome but extremely painful and tiring. I hope this recovery gets better