Tonsillectomy Recovery

Crying ManThere is a vast difference between having a tonsillectomy as a child and as an adult. Firstly, the older you are, the longer it takes the body to heal. Secondly, a child’s tonsils are much smaller than an adult’s and require much less skin to be removed. The larger adult tonsils tend to cause more trauma and pain. However, doctors do not completely understand why an adult experiences more subjective pain than a child. If you are about to have a tonsillectomy or have recently had your tonsils removed, you should expect moderate to severe discomfort and pain for at least two weeks, sometimes longer.

Immediately after the tonsillectomy operation you should not feel too much pain as you will still have the anaesthetic in your system. The pain usually starts to become very uncomfortable when you wake up the following day. Your recovery experience will depend a lot on how you plan for and manage the next two weeks. You should expect to have a mild to severely sore throat in the first two weeks. The throat pain will peak around days 7-11 when the scabs from the wound begin to fall off. You should also expect to lose some weight and feel hungry as you will not be able to follow your normal diet. Loss of taste, sore tongue, bad breath and jaw pain are also commonly reported after a tonsillectomy. Some people also experience mild to severe nausea after the operation due to the anaesthetic.

Your first challenge will be eating and drinking. The most important advice that anyone can give you about recovering from a tonsillectomy is to drink water. Unfortunately drinking water is extremely painful, especially when the throat is dry .e.g. when you first wake up. However, if you do not drink water, the throat becomes even drier and it is even more painful to drink water. You should keep a bottle of water close to you and sip it as often as you can.

Eating food is also very difficult. The most common food in the first few weeks is ice chips or ice lollies as they both hydrate your throat and numb it at the same time which is very soothing. Rough foods which scrape your throat are painful, yet some doctors recommend rough food as they say it will clean the wound and speed up your recovery. I strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor about your tonsillectomy recovery and find out what foods he or she recommends. Most people in the USA are told to eat soft foods for the first week or so until after the scabs have fallen off and then slowly progress to rougher foods. Popular soft foods are pasta, baby food, jell-o, soup, scrambled egg. Do not eat very acidic or spicy foods or sauces as these will cause pain e.g. tomato based sauces or anything with chillies in it.

You will notice that you develop a heavy grey/yellow/white membrane where the tonsils were removed. This is the scab that is protecting the area where you tonsils were removed. It will slowly go away as you heal. The greatest risk you face is hemorrhaging of the wound. This occurs when the wound opens up and begins to bleed. If it is a very small amount it is usually not a big concern, however if it is more, you need to get urgent medical attention. In all cases, you should contact your doctor immediately or get to the nearest emergency hospital. You should not worry too much about the likelihood of serious hemorrhaging during your tonsillectomy recovery period as less than 4% of people will actually experience it.

Man holding tonsils

Another area to focus on is your sleeping environment. You should plan to make this area as comfortable as possible as this is where you will be spending much of your recovery time. I strongly recommend buying or borrowing a humidifier as it can significantly aid in your tonsillectomy recovery. A humidifier will increase the humidity in air that you breathe and therefore aid in keeping your throat moist. Your sleeping cycle will almost certainly be affected by the medication you take and the pain you experience.Depending on the medication you are prescribed and the schedule for taking it, you may find yourself waking up when the medication begins to wear off and the pain increases.

Most people find themselves sleeping for between four and six hours at a time. It is generally a good idea to set an alarm to take your medication if you may be sleeping as this will also give you some time to drink some water.

Medication is critical during your tonsillectomy recovery. You can expect to be prescribed both a pain killer and anti-biotic. The anti-biotic is used to prevent or control any infection arising from the wound. The pain killers are obviously prescribed to help you manage the pain. You may be prescribed an opioid based pain killer which is very effective. Talk to your doctor and ask him exactly how often you should take your medication and the maximum you can take when the pain is severe.

Remember that after the scabs fall off around days 7-11, your recovery will be rapid. Don’t forget to drink water often and follow your medication schedule. If you have not yet had your tonsillectomy and are planning for it, go out now and buy yourself some of your favourite magazines, books etc. Even although the recovery period is quite short, it feels longer than it is and the more things you have to distract yourself with the better!

If you would like to know more about what to expect before, during and after your tonsillectomy, and exactly how to minimize the pain, have a look at the original Adult Tonsillectomy Survival Guide.

3,391 Responses to “Tonsillectomy Recovery”

  • Cassie:

    Hello, my name is Cassie. I am 22 and I had my tonsillectomy done via the coblation method on October 20th, 2015. I was very nervous after only reading countless horror stories.. saying that the pain was horrible, even people who can tolerate pain can’t tolerate it, and that it’s worse than childbirth.. etc. I even chickened out of my surgery at first, but the second time around I went through with it. Let me tell you first hand,that for me… it wasn’t bad at all, not even close. I’ve never given birth, but after having 12 infections from tonsilitus.. teeth problems, swollen glands, and becoming resistant to penicillin.. I was done, I was ready for them to come out. The second to last time I had tonsillitis I ran a fever of 102 my throat felt so swollen i could hardly swallow water, all I could do was sleep and believe it or not that was 10 times worse than going through this surgery. This was my first surgery, but I arrived at the hospital early, they got me all set up, it took maybe an hour and a half and i was wheeled in for surgery. Once in the surgery room, they lifted me onto another bed and were attaching those heart monitor stickies to me, all i know is whatever they were talking about with me.. i became less coherent, and didn’t even know when I passed out, it was so fast. I remember them saying something like.. the drugs must be kicking in. I woke up, with a mask on… and looked around taking deep breaths in.. i waited for them to take the mask off.. they gave me this long ice pack for my neck.. and I didn’t feel anything.. no pain. About 30 minutes later they wheeled me on down to the room I was first in, made sure I went to the bathroom, which I had to about 3 times from the lactated ringer they put in the iv, gave me a blueberry popsicle.. and I was ready to go home. I took liquid tylenol with this cool burst menthol tasting stuff in it, like every 6 hours.. I took that more than I even had to take the hydracodone liquid medicine. It took me like.. 2 1/2 weeks for me to feel completely better.. but all in all I handled it pretty well.. the worst part for me was coughing whenever i took my medicine. Nothing bad happened, and it didn’t even hurt.. as long as you try not to cough too hard you should be good. The cool burst in the medicine would make me cough and i had to take water with it to get it down, would take me a total of 15 minutes, but I would feel good then. My advice is to take the medicine before the pain starts kicking in, write down when you take it. I was able to sleep fine.. I would wake up about 3 am if I didn’t set my alarm for the medicine.. and not even then did I have a terrible dry throat pain. For me.. I would get that dry/very achey feeling in my throat about 7 to 11 days post op.. i took the hydracodone on some of them and just slept, but still wasn’t as bad as the tonsilitus. I was eating scrambled eggs by day 2, I simply refused to feel like I was starving. The doctor/nurse I had, had said that the sooner I ate food the sooner I would be recovered, well they were right. All in all this is how I got through my recovery so easily. I had also read someones post who went through it easily and followed their advice.

    1. I prepared ahead of time. Go out and buy yourself a cool mist humidifier, you will need this, it will be a life saver as it prevents a dry throat, and reduces inflammation. Put a stand next to your bed if you don’t already have one.. and have it set up and ready to go the night before surgery. There’s a control dial.. I had mine about set in the middle so I had a good amount of vapo liquid going into the air.

    2. Foods, grab every type of food you’ll eat before hand. I grabbed, Gatorade and froze it, blended it and made slushies out of it. Apple juice, full of nutrients you’ll need. Jello, popsicles, dry baby cereal you can heat in milk, eggs for scrambled eggs, jello parfaits, and some canned baby food… to start. I also bought a bag of ice.. and use it to refill the ice bag.. or to put in my slushie/drinks.

    3. I set a small tv up by my bed, with my dvd player and ps2 so I could play games and watch movies during my recovery, best idea ever. I suggest putting your medicine, a cup of water, notepad, pen, and phone.. on your nightstand, it makes it so much easier.

    4. Have ice ready to go, two different packs you can alternate.. and keep it on your neck for 15-20 minutes. It will help a lot with the swelling, I used the ice pack I got from the hospital for the first two weeks before it kinda fell apart.

    5. Whatever you do, do not drink through a straw, or any cups with straws built in. This can cause a blood clot to come lose, and bleeding to start. Same goes for any music instruments you have to blow in.. flutes.. harmonicas. If you love to play music like I do..

    6. Make sure you are drinking water! I drank water every time it was convienient, don’t make it hard on yourself and try and down it.. just everytime you take medicine drink with it, everytime you eat.. drink with it, before you go to lay back down.. drink some water.. and you’ll be fine.

    7. No singing… this was so hard for me… but for 3 weeks, they don’t recommend you do any singing.

    8. Don’t lift anything heavy.. Bend over.. or take hot showers. All of these put you at high risk for bleeding.

    9. Gather up a bunch of movies to watch and games to play.

    10. Everyday is going to be of some level of annoyance to you, but just remind yourself that everyday, you are one day closer to feeling the best you’ve felt in a while.

    Also, for me… I don’t remember the scabs coming off… or even feeling it really so I guess it just kinda happened lol. I had large tonsils with a lot of scarring.. I was out of work for two weeks, and all in all.. my recovery went very smooth.

    Best of luck to everyone having this done, I totally recommend the coblation method.. and I hope this helps to ease your nerves, its kinda like getting a tooth removed in a sense .. no sucking on straws, eating soft food.. you have a raw area… just with a twist of a sore throat.

    • Annquenette:

      Wow! Cassie I greatly appreciate your post. I was really having some reluctance to go forth with this surgery after like yourself, hearing horror stories. Your story is helping me to be more confident in moving forward with the surgery. Thank you so much!

  • Catherine:

    Sleep apnea is able to be cured with good health and strnog lungs. When you exercise practice good breathing, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Practice breathing right. Most people forget how’ to breath even though most are born with the instinct of doing correctly, we simply uncorrected it. You’ll notice when a baby is breathing the stomach goes up and down. A child, young adult or adult who has forgotten how to breath correctly with breath with their full bodies, shoulders moving up and down. If you’re not sure how you breathe, lay down on the ground and place a book on your stomach to see if it moves when you breathe. Breathing correctly will help your lungs.My daughter had sleep apnea, came of CPAP, had to wear an alarm for a while but with increasing good health was able to come off and it’s been gone for years now.

  • Sanjay:

    I think the problem is that we’re hrdlay ever think of the common good, or for that matter, the communal good. It’s all about someone who looks or sounds just like us or how we think we’d like to be. I, I, me, me, mine, mineLet’s not be that selfish, please.

  • Brenna:

    If you’re like me, then you’re tired of hearing all the usual insight on how to make your breath smell good
    to have fresh breath that lasts all day long. “Brush your teeth, floss at night, and also lug some mints around with you all days” is just what people like to claim– yet if you absolutely struggle with
    chronic bad breath, after that these points will just boost your breath
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    make the “freshness” last all day.

  • Tonia:

    Day 16: still struggling. White patches and redness at the back of the throat. REALLY? What is taking so long for me to heal and what is that, is that the scabs and why is it not going away. the back of my throat burns, is itchy and feels like flim. I am ready to move on, please say this is almost over and what do I do???

    • Tonia:

      Oh and the ear pain still comes and goes. I am miserable still. Maybe not as bad as earlier, but I am going to end up taking two more days off. Three weeks all together. that is crazy!!! Not what I expected.

  • Joe:

    I had a uppo, tonsillectomy and base-tongue reduction done 3 days ago. The right side of stitches fell apart and told my doc about it and sent a photo. He said its normal. It left a pretty big cavity back there and worried a bit about it. Food and bacteria getting stuck there or it might not heal correctly. The loose flap is creating a dime-sized cavity. Is this normal 3 days into the recovery process?

  • Joe:

    Just wanted to follow up and say losing stitches early on can be normal and everything is healing correctly.

  • Hollie Alexander:

    I’m 17 and I had my tonsils taken out on Monday morning and it’s now Friday night (5day) and one side is white (as it has been since day one) and the other side has just changed to a red colour, no white at all. It looks like a blood blister or bleeding under the skin, I just need to know whether this is a concern or not because I’ve been reading that bleeding can be a major concern but it’s not actually bleeding it’s under the skin:/ And there’s nothing in my mouth it’s only on my tonsil area. Slightly worried …

    • Tami:

      The white part is the scab. The reddish looking part is probably the scab coming off. It should get lighter, then pink, then should be like the same color as the rest of the inside of your mouth.

  • kurt g:

    Hello. I had my tonsils taken out on January 18th. Today is day 11 of the recovery process for me, and my throat feels fine…. except it feels like I have something stuck where my tonsil used to be on the right side of my throat. It hurts very bad when I swallow… and it is only on the right side of my throat. Is this normal? Is this inflammation? Or should I get it checked by an ENT? Like I said, my left side feels perfect, only pain I have is constantly on the right.. sharp obstructing pain.

    • Alistair:

      I am 14 days since my tonsils removal and my symptoms are exactly the same! Left side pretty good, right side has a sore spot that refuses to go away and has the same feeling as when a large tonsil stone would be stuck before my tonsils were removed. I feel like I want something to pop out the right side and relieve me but there’s nothing to be seen. Let me know if you have got past this problem and how.

      • Irene:

        Hi Alistair,

        I have the same problem. Did it resolve itself in your case? I am getting scared that this won’t go away…


    • Irene:

      Hi Kurt,

      I have the exact same problem. Did it resolve itself in your case? I am getting scared that this won’t go away…

  • Sarah:

    I’m on day 3 post op from Tonsillectomy; I’m 45 but got freak episodes of strep last year that landed me in the ICU with neck swelling etc. This recovery has been more painful than I anticipated. I’ve lost 4 lbs already, and swallowing water is unbelievably difficult. As long as I’m not talking, eating, etc the pain is 2-3. With swallowing its closer to a 7-8. I have a lot of referred ear pain with swallowing.
    My biggest issue is that my uvula has swollen up to the size of my finger. It also has scabs on it, so I’m thinking my ENT nabbed it with the cautery. Not fun. I am sleeping propped up to prevent choking on it, and swallowing water or medication is difficult..its coming out my nose.

    It looks like I’m pretty much par for the course, though. Thank you all for sharing your stories.

    A few tips:
    Humidifier by bedside.
    Wedge pillow or lots of pillows to keep propped up sleeping
    Foods I thought I would like I can’t eat. Baked tofu is savory but soft, and not as friable as an egg. Smoothies are impossible with gobs of phlegm. Mac and cheese, gnocchi, all good. Juices have hurt too much.
    Cool or room temperature water is better than icechips
    Ice gel packs for my neck and ears have been lifesavers!
    Get up and walk, even if around house.
    Pill splitter/crusher good for non-liquid meds.
    In US, steroids not used much post op due to impaired healing and increased risk of infection. Too bad, I wish I had some.
    I’m constantly swishing cool water around mouth and throat, even if I can’t swallow it, its keeping the scabs moist. I’ve had a few small flecks fall off. Hopefully this process continues.
    Take daily shower and keep clean. Helps you feel better anyway!
    I hope the 2nd half of my recovery is better than this!
    Timing my food/water intake with pain meds. Taking hydrocodone every 4 hrs. There’s about a 30 min window where pain is tolerable… I make sure my food is available, and wash it down with plenty of water. I really can’t get down much at other times.

  • Tia Charlesworth:

    I had my tonsils and adanoids out 4 days ago and it has been a rough few days but day 4 and can just manage to eat “proper food” It hurts to swallow most of the time and I find it hard to drink sometimes but drinking water does help the thing that I find strange is that when I drink/take medication my mouth goes all mucasy and even after I clean my mouth it wont go or it just dries out untill I drink again it is not very pleasant dose anyone know how to stop it.

    • Eileen:

      The phlegm will slow down……. I was using tons of tissues to remove it from my mouth …?And used Difflam mouth wash 4 times a day

  • Eileen:

    Hi. Had mine out 11 days ago . It’s been hell !! Gagging , phlegm , infection , I have found gargling with the dissolvable paracetamol helps (once I wasn’t gagging) and Difflam oral rinse us soooo good .

    • Gary:

      My wife is getting hers out Thursday. I’m wondering how will she take her pain medicine.

      • Eileen:

        I’m in my 3rd week. It’s been hell .im only just eating as long as I have a glass of water by my side . I’m age 60 so that’s probably why it’s been tough. I couldn’t take pain killers as I was gagging. It’s important to keep on top of the pain killers every 4 hours . You can take liquid ibroprofen and liquid paracetamol . I found the liquid too thick to swallow . Ended up back in hospital where I had infection on my tongue where they had done biopsy , so I managed t get intravenous pain relief. Be prepared to set alarm for every 3 1/2 hours in the night to take pain killers . You wake up with the pain and throat is very sore. Very thin cuppa soup is all o have managed and of course sips of water. Hope your wife is OK X

  • Carrie:

    I am 47 years old and on day 5 of my recovery from a tonsillectomy. It appears I’m one of the very unlucky few who have adverse reactions to any pain killers. I am in so much pain it’s literally driving me insane..Ive slept for maybe a max of 2 hours a time and wake up suddenly from sleep feeling as though I am choking. Which starts a panic attack. I’m not choking but wake up feeling that way. I feel I’m unable to relax and fall asleep. I’ve tried ibuprofen, tramadol (still bad reaction) and Tylenol…I don’t know what else to try. Any suggestions?

    • Jennifer:

      Hey Carrie…so sorry about your pain. I just had my tonsillectomy on 2/24/16…I am so ready for this recovery to be over. I am taking pain meds and then doing children’s Motrin in between. Be packs on my throat seem to help as well and I just keep drinking ice water-that seems to help a bit. Ugh….I literally feel your pain…hang in there.

  • Tami:

    I just had my tonsillectomy yesterday. I think I’m doing pretty good, mostly feels like a sore throat. I take my Percocet every 3-4 hours. Had oatmeal for breakfast this morning. I enjoy ice cream, but I think I will stick more w/ sorbet, the dairy leaves an unpleasant feeling in my mouth. I’m told most people report pain kicking in around day 3.

    My tonsils were small, but very infected when they were removed. I’ve dealt with tonsil stones for years, on and off, but 5 times in the last year, the last time landing me in the ER because I couldn’t get it out, I had enough so decided to get the surgery.

    One thing I’ve noticed that is weird is trying to blow my nose on the right side (which is also the side I had the most problems with my tonsil), I can’t seem to put enough pressure internally to blow my nose. Is that normal? Taking cold and allergy medicine on top of my pain meds seems to help, but hoping things will get better so I can blow my nose normally. Thanks!

  • Riley:

    I had my tonsillectomy in August due to having strep too much and being on antibiotics kept lowering my immune system so I decided to just go through the surgery to not always have to be dealing with strep. Surgery went well but recovery was horrible and I don’t want to lie about this and it is the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. Prepare yourself for almost sleepless nights, bad breath, always having a bad taste in your mouth, and not being able to drink or eat because it hurts so bad. I had to go to the hospital 2 times to get saline because I was so dehydrated. I was weak and had an allergic reaction to my pain meds and had to switch to different pain meds. I am so happy I went through this because it is way better than having strep over and over again, ever since my tonsilectimy I haven’t had any throat pain since!

  • Tim:

    I’m 59 years old and had my toncils removed on March 10th. My problem was my tonsils started to look like deflated balloons and began capturing and holding food. This started about two years ago and I would clean them out anytime I felt food back there. But since I could see only a small part of my tonsils, I could never be sure I got it all. I was convinced I wasn’t getting all of the food when last summer, I started getting repeated ear aces, something I hadn’t had since I was very young, and sinus infections. I went to an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor in January and he told me the only way to stop it was to take’m out.
    As a kid it seemed like everybody had their tonsils removed and hearing horror stories about it virtually all of my life, and reading on line testamonials about the experience, I was expecting the worst. I was expecting the experience I had with the one and only bout I ever had with strep throat when I was in my 30’s. UNBEARABLY PAINFUL to swallow!
    Well, for me, this was a cake walk. When I got home the day of the surgery, I waited for the pain. Day one, day two, day three, four, five and every day after, I waited for the pain. It never came!?! I can honestly say that my discomfort never raised to the level of even a mild sore throat! What? That’s right, minor discomfort which was the worst when drinking cold liquids or soft foods. So I drank room temperature liquids and soft foods.That’s it. I don’t know why I seem to have gotten so lucky. Perhaps my pain threshold is high due to a lifetime of injuries like broken bones, cartilage damage in my knee, torn rotator cuff, Zoster (shingles) which was a thousand time worse on the pain scale. Almost five weeks post tonsillectomy, all seems back to normal. Yahoo!!!!! I wish everyone could have the same experience with this procedure as I had.

  • […] Tonsillectomy Recovery | Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery … – There is a vast difference between having a tonsillectomy as a child and as an adult. Firstly, the older you are, the longer it takes the body to heal. […]

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