Hi everyone! I’m a 22 year old female that recently had a tonsillectomy due to tonsil stones. I spent so much of my time beforehand scouring the internet for other’s stories, so I figure that it’s only fair that I share my own experience!
The main thing that I took away is that I had a MUCH better time, I think, than the average experience you read about on the forums. That’s the good news! The bad news is that during my follow-up appointment with my referring ENT, he said that that is extremely rare—no matter the size of the tonsils or the method used, adult tonsillectomies he said are consistently one of the main painful recoveries because of the cauterized muscle. D:
The surgery itself was extremely straightforward. It’s very important that you follow instructions given beforehand (like not eating or drinking the night before). I would recommend that you get as early an appointment as possible the next day, given that you can’t eat or drink—recovery is difficult enough when you’re weak from lack of food and water! I was lucky enough to get the first slot of the day (although waking up at 6:00 a.m. certainly didn’t feel it!). They inserted an IV into the back of my hand (not what I was expecting from the movies), I knocked out and woke up groggily. I did not have any kind of fun coming-off-of-anesthesia experience, unfortunately! I pretty much immediately felt like myself afterwards. So, on to recovery! I should have kept better notes, because it’s been a couple weeks now so I’m working from memory. The first day and a half or so, I was religious about taking my narcotic pain medication on time, because I was terrified of the pain I read about on the online forums of adult tonsillectomy! This might be unique to my experience only, but I’d actually recommend trying to gauge your pain before treating it (I know everyone else says to take the medicine before the pain kicks in to avoid it). For me, the narcotics made me extremely nauseous one day (I made the mistake, I think, of having one on an empty stomach). When I stopped and switched to Tylenol as needed, I was actually totally fine and could avoid the nasty side effects of the narcotics! Over the course of the next ten days, my recovery I would say went really, really well. The pain went slightly up around the middle—maybe day 5? But only from a base level of around a 2 or 3 on a pain scale to a 4, 5, or—at the very worst one morning—a 6. Mornings tended to be the worst for me because my throat was so dry.
Here are all my suggestions for an adult tonsillectomy! I’d also mention that it’s possible I had a better experience because I was expecting it to be the worst pain of my entire life by far, and anything below that felt manageable haha. —Foods: as rich as possible! For me, the consistency that worked the best was slightly thick. For some reason, pure liquid anything was more difficult/painful for me to swallow (maybe the tissue touching more of itself in my throat?). Slightly thicker liquids—porridge, blended smoothies, soft soups, applesauce—felt MUCH more comfortable, particularly when slightly heated. I literally lived off of smoothies, for taste, nutrition, and hydration, and I can’t recommend them enough. I had them first thing in the morning to soothe my dry throat—my go-to recipe was peach or mango nectar, with mango, strawberries, and some ice. (Do be careful about what fruits and juices you’re using—apple juice burned for a while, and obviously you want to avoid anything clearly acidic like grapefruit, pineapple, orange, or lemon/lime juice. Mangos and strawberries were safe for me.). My mom also made a lot of really rich chicken broth and soup for me, porridge, steamed eggs (with a little sesame oil—yum!), soft tofu (you can get this at any Asian grocery market—cut it up and add some sesame oil), and pretty much anything else that you can stand. Having a caretaker if possible is a game changer. —I slept propped up on cushions to stay comfortable. Otherwise, the saliva dripping down my throat made it impossible to sleep because swallowing is going to be painful for a LONG time. Even at the very end (around day 10), swallowing made me wince a bit. Towards the end, I was taking about half of a Tylenol before meals so that I could eat pain-free. —Honestly, the main thing that I did—that might have helped me the very most, but who knows!—is I avoided speaking for literally an entire week. My parents became scared that I would lose my voice entirely and basically made me start speaking again around day 10 or so, but before that, I was completely mute. I used the Google Translate app on my phone to speak (write what I wanted to say, press translate into English, then press the volume button so that the words would be said aloud). Resting my throat might have been the trick to letting it heal more quickly and painlessly. I have no idea how important that was for my recovery. —The doc will maybe give you some green apple lollipops that numb your throat, but if you can, I would avoid these—to me, they were the worst! This might be obvious to others, but the numbing lollipops will numb EVERYTHING they touch. All I wanted to do was numb the very back of my throat that hurt, but instead, I numbed part of that and mostly everything else in my mouth—my cheeks, my tongue, my lips. It was such an uncomfortable feeling, particularly when it came to coordinating eating, that I preferred the pain, even though those lollipops aren’t cheap! —Rest, rest, rest of any kind is the most important. I would say listen to your body. I was abnormally tired and got as much sleep as I wanted the first couple days. I also started a new TV show or two (Voltron was my pick, if you’re interested! If you liked Avatar the Last Airbender or Legend of Korra, you’ll love Voltron). And stay as hydrated and fed as possible. My body was basically a plant for a couple weeks, and I just rested and drank and ate and slept until I felt better. I hope your recovery goes smoothly!