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.

3,237 Responses to “Tonsillectomy Recovery”

  • Jessica:

    My feyanca is 31 had his remov d we don’t recomand it to any one

  • Danielle B:

    Hey all i had my surgery done for my tonsils getting removed on sept 4th 2014 and i am 29 soon to be 30 the first few days were ok but when it came to the 2nd and 3rd days after surgery i had to go to the emergency room due to being dehydrated and not able to swallow i do recommend that you drink as much fluids as u can and take your meds the doc gave you. then the 4th to now which is my 7th day i am doing better then i was still taking the meds like i am supossed to be and drinking as much as i can and since it being the 7th day my throat just feels really sore and feels like there are sores everywhere on my tongue but just wanted to share this with everyone

  • Mellanie:

    I’m 27 years old and had both my tonsils and adenoids removed due to tonsil stones. Although my primary care physician said and I quote “I’ve seen worse” (implying he didnt think I should do it), my ENT specializes in this sort of thing and he felt it would be a wise choice. I knew it had to be done when he said it could get worse as I got older. So I had my tonsils and adenoids removed 10 days ago. Day 1 was alright cause I didn’t get any nausea from the anesthesia. Not saying it wasn’t painful to swallow, but no nausea is a big help! So Days 2-5 was painful but hydrocodone helped with that. I also found using an ice pack, and crushing my meds( mixed with cranberry juice to reduce chalky taste) to be helpful. Oh and I ended up taking medication to prevent nausea because of the side effects from the hydrocodone. Being stuck in the house all day was making me feel worse so I took short walks after day 4. I was waking up every 15-30 minutes to drink water or suck on ice chips. I also took hot showers because the humidity would help ease the pain. Sleeping on a recliner was the best thing I could’ve done ; every time I would lay flat, I’d swear I was swallowing my uvula, my tongue, my teeth, you name it! I just couldn’t breathe! It wasn’t until day 5 that I could actually eat, even though I still couldn’t enjoy the food. I ate boiled eggs, jello, pudding, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese. I even tried the soft part of bread. Yes, I ate. But it was a VERY limited amount of food. There’s only so much pain a person could handle. Days 6 and 7 the pain was a little bit more tolerable and I slept more through the night despite some ear pain ( mine wasn’t as bad as some people mentioned) . Sometimes eating cold food or drinking cold fluids would sting my throat, which made me think the scabs were starting to come off but I’m not sure. Anything with sugar, acid, or salt was pretty painful so try avoiding those types of foods. Day 8 was by far the worst for me. I was still taking my medications and could hardly eat because everything stung my throat so I became extremely fatigued and nauseated. I even lost color to my face! I decided to try a humidifier that night and I think it was pretty helpful. I continued to walk after meals to help with the nausea from the medications and drank Gatorade for hydration but the nausea was BAD. I almost took myself to the hospital because of it. Later on day 9, I went a few hours without any pain So I ate an ice cream Sunday thinking my throat would handle it, but boy was I wrong. It gave me lots of sharp pains and I woke up with phlem that was almost impossible to get rid of the next day. Day 8 was actually when I starting gagging because I could feel the scabs hanging in the back of my throat. I spit up some of them with some phlem. YUCK. I thought the bad part was over but gagging because of the scabs was just it for me. If I would’ve known I would’ve been nauseous most of the time and getting gagged by scabs, I may have thought more about taking this surgery! Anyway, the ENT put me on steroids to help the swelling and I guess to make it heal faster.

    Today, I ran out of anti nausea pills so I took one of my moms reglan pills after confirming with the ENT , and it felt like a bomb was dropped in my stomach. It was another BAD IDEA. The Good news is that I made it to my appointment regardless of my stomach issues and was told by my ENT that everything was going great, and I could eat anything I want except for any sharp foods that could scratch my throat , like chips. The bad news is that he told me I have one more week to get gagged by scabs! Ughh. Good luck to everyone who is taking this surgery or is going through it. I hope it’s all worth it.

  • chuck:

    Tonsillectomy Was GREAT!

    No, seriously, it didn’t hurt more than a typical sore throat and I was up on my feet and doing stuff the day after surgery. I don’t mean to come on here to brag about how pain tolerant I am. I just wanted to let folks know that it can sometimes be relatively pain-free. If someone’s considering it as an adult, they shouldn’t be scared off by all of the horror stories – because (at least in my case) that doesn’t always happen.

    I took the tylenol with codeine the doc prescribed that first night so I could sleep.
    But I didn’t take any meds after that first night since I didn’t feel much of anything unless I was swallowing.
    And even then it didn’t feel any worse than a normal sore throat.

    So I never took any more of the prescribed meds (wasted my money, I guess).
    And I was fine and puttering around the house, bored, the day after surgery.
    The only bad part was being told to eat cold mush and not to do anything.

    I waited the full 2 weeks to go back to work in an office job but I felt like I could’ve gone back the day after surgery if I just kept ice water handy.

    I don’t know if I just got lucky or what.
    Maybe I was using way more ice water than some of these other folks – who knows?
    From the moment I woke up in post-op, I was CONSTANTLY drinking ice-filled drinks then sucking on the ice chips. I don’t think I ever had a moment where I wasn’t slurping something cold. (aside from sleeping)
    Maybe that helped?

    Maybe it’s mental.
    I never thought – going into it – that it was going to be a big deal.
    I just assumed it would hurt a little and I’d take some pain pills and it wouldn’t hurt too bad.
    So I went into it thinking if it hurt a bit – oh well, it’ll be over in a couple of weeks and I’ll forget all about it.
    I didn’t get myself all nervous and afraid.
    And it went beautifully – just annoying.
    So maybe that’s part of it, too.
    Who knows?

    Good luck.

  • Lyndsey Flora:

    I’m so surprised that no one mentioned sneezing. I’m on day 10 of recovery and I sneezed for the first time yesterday..worst pain EVER.

  • Randy:

    My story is back on page 33, but I’d like to comment here that those who had little discomfort must’ve had a less radical surgery than others here. In my case, my doctor suspected cancer (which was correct … I’m fine now after 35 days of radiation/chemo) so he did what he termed an “aggressive surgery,” and it was excruciatingly painful for several days, meds or no meds. Did the fact that it was “aggressive” make it hurt more? I don’t know, but if your experience is not much different than a sore throat, then be glad.

    • Joe:

      Hey Randy. I’m a 38 year old male and just had my tonsils removed yesterday. My ENT thought it best since he believes it may be cancer. How long after your tonsillectomy did you receive your diagnosis? Also, what type of radiation treatment did you receive? I’m a bit scared of course, but if it’s cancer then obviously the sooner I find out, the better. How long after your tonsillectomy did you begin treatment? Thanks in advance for anything you can tell me…

  • Kiera:

    Hi ya guys…

    So my tonsilectomy begins 8 days ago… For me this has been 8 days from hell, my surgery was a success(that’s the only positive thing I have), I woke up from my surgery very groggy, pain started to kick in so they gave me some of that amazing stuff morphine or in my case it almost killed me ( had a very severe allergic reaction to it) so in the end I was sedated. I managed to eat some jelly when I was a lot more with it,happy days! I got sent home with dissolvable parcetmol, ibuprofen and difflam mouthwash. Probably from day 3 the pain was just awful.. My jaw just feels weird ( like its out of place), toothache in pretty much every tooth, earache, swollen tongue( which they accidentally burnt!) and the ever so painful swallowing. I kept up with pain relief, but it wasn’t really helping me much. By day 5 I hadn’t eaten because I was in pain.. I tried to keep up with my fluids, but l found this really hard. Day 6 was a turning point, but not a great one for me, I began vomiting and any fluids I drink would come right back up. I started to notice streaks of blood that evening and this became more apparent in the morning of day 7. I had reached my limit at this point, so I carted myself to the doctors where I was told I had an infection in the back of throat and that I would need to be admitted in to hospital as soon as I could. I arrived at the hospital where I was seen by the ENT surgeons where I was diagnosed with the infection,dehydration and very low BP. I was put on Iv parcetmol, Iv fluids, IV antibiotics and codeine. Lieing allergic to Tramadol and morphine sucks!… Tho, I did start to feel a lot better in myself.. I manged to eat half a jacket potato and beans. Huge achievement for me. My jaw still feels weird and ‘not right’, like its out of place. But my consultant reassures me that this is all normal, can anyone confirm this for me??… I still have a long recovery ahead of me and i wish I never had the surgery. But it was a must as I was diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis. So.. This is my story I’m on day 9 now… Here’s to hoping it gets better..

  • millie:

    I recently had my tonsils out only three days ago, the pain is really bad and makes me feel quite sick. To top it all off i have caught a cold so cant stop coughing and sniffling. This is not good as it hurts even more to breath and definitely when i cough! Does anyone know how i can stop this? I have been eating normally but only small bits at one time. I have been drinking a variety of drinks as they dont bother me as much! I am only young and im scared about the scabs falling off as my doctor didnt say that was a good thing to be happeneing? A bit confused of the whole situation

  • Ben:

    Hello all,

    I had my tonsils removed last Friday, so this is day 5. I had them removed via laser in the uk because of recurrent tonsillitis and tonsil stones, which were both getting worse. I am 38 year old male. The surgery went well, the doc said the tonsils were in a pretty bad state and i am very pleased to see the back of them thats for sure. I went home the same night, and felt ok i think i was a bit high from the general and the morphine etc. Felt ok saturday morning and went for a walk, sat afternoon felt tired but been taking codiene and mouth gargle and anti inflammation drugs. I ate a little bit of soup too, anyway was sort of doing ok then sat night i began to feel really really ill, began with a fever of 38.6, my wife was googling it and said if it goes to 39 then go to a and e, but we have two young children and i didnt want to create a scene etc. anyway this horrible fever stayed till tuesday night when it just seemed to break, i felt so ill i didnt notice any pain i carried on with the gargle and took some codiene painkillers from time to time but not always as they made me feel totally out of it.

    so mon night, day 3 i started sweating and i mean pouring off of me. saturated the sheets and duvet and sleeping bag, never seen anything like it, i woke up tues and coughed up a lump of fresh-ish blood and felt fine, well i say fine in comparison to how i had been. then yesterday was sort of ok, was able to eat some soup and some pasta very slowly, have been going with the water etc, and stopped taking the codiene so was able to use the toilet which was such a relief as was very constipated.

    this morning day 5 i decided to do a litle work from home felt ok, but then the pain just started again everything feels sore no fever but i just feel generally wrong, my tongue is sore, lips, throat, ears, tonsils, osophogeus and when i breathe in i have this strange bronchial sort of pain, not sure if its bruising from the tubes or a chest infection i just dont know; tonsils are all grey and pussy breath has improved slightly i stank the weekend. hoping the worst is over.

    cant see the mouth pain getting worse, i just wish the chest would be ok, i do sound a little rattly too, possibly a slight infection i guess. im not sure if to call the doc for some anti biotics but no longer have an infection. maybe ought to get back to the world at war and the sweeney on the sofa and forget about work. i must admit overall i am suprised at the state of myself in general i am trying to hide it from the wife so as to not upset her, she has enough to deal with with the 2 and 5 year old, wish id have taken care of this years ago before children. that said the tonsilliats did get worse post children, prob combined stress of young children and work didnt help… will post in a few days see how you are all , wish you all better. cheers

  • John Sturman:

    Male age 44 tonsillectomy.
    Immediately post op. I was in a lot of pain which was only just dealt with by oromorph. I was close to being admitted to the High Dependency Unit for IV morphine. I was kept in hospital overnight.
    The next day the pain had subsided and I was given ibuprofen and paracetamol to take home, prescribed by the surgeon.
    The only thing that helped the pain was some ice cream.
    The pain day 2 and 3 was 3/10, nothing worse than a normal sore throat and I was able to eat reasonably normally.
    Day 4 I woke with my throat in much more pain. I had very dense scabs in tonsil spaces, some of which sloughed off after a bit of food. Swallowing became painful.
    Day 5 the pain was now up to a 9/10 and the meds. had no effect. Not sleeping and unable to eat or drink. Swallowing sips of water was excruciating.
    Day 6 early hours the pain was 10/10 and almost unbearable. Couldn’t even think and was desperate. Went back to emergency dept. at hospital. Put on IV paracetamol drip and Diclofenac with oral liquid co-codamol. Pain then eased to bearable level in emergency room.
    Prescribed 1000mg tablets of co-codamol, 50mg Diclofenac, anaesthetic throat spray and advised to also take Tramadol when pain was bad. Also given antibiotics in case of any infection.
    Day 7-9 pain was 10/10 unless I took all the prescribed meds. which completely knocked me out, either to sleep or floating around the room. Was scared to sleep as this dried out my throat and when I woke it felt like my throat was being blow torched, until the next meds. took effect.
    Days 10-11 had the pain slowly easing off enabling me to drop my meds dosage, come off the Tramadol and co-codamol. Finally being able to eat small amounts of food, though swallowing still very painful.
    Day 12 had the pain drop to a background of 4/10 and meds. down to 2 Diclofenac a day.
    Day 13 was first day I started to feel a bit like myself. Energy levels returning and able to do some normal low level activities but still with background pain around 3/10.
    Day 14 was the first day background pain occasionally became unnoticeable, though swallowing still hurt but only at a level around 3/10.
    Day 15 was first day without and meds. Occasional background pain with swallowing at level of 2/10. Able to eat and drink normally for the first time.
    Day 16 and 17 has background pain only on waking up for around first half hour. Swallowing pain getting slightly better each day. Able to function normally.
    Overall, a much worse recovery than anticipated, with several days where even swallowing was so painfull I couldn’t eat or drink anything – getting dehydrated and an unbearable background pain, taking me back into hospital. The only answer was to get so dosed up on painkillers I was completely spaced out.
    Now on Day 17 and still recovering, with typical sore throat level pain when swallowing.
    Scabs now just thin covering of tonsil spaces. Uvula almost back to normal size.

  • Brandi:

    Hi there,
    I am 28 years old and I had my Tonsils and Adenoids reomoved 8 days ago. It has been super painful for me. I can handle pain pretty well for the most part. Not this though. The first day Surgery Day, I was nervous….but after surgery, I was okay. I was talking right away..granted it hurt like heck. I did the same day surgery and My ENT said it was up to me if I wanted to stay the night. I just wanted to go home. he Recovery process at the hospital I felt like went by exteremly fast. I remember waking up in Recovery room one…they kept trying to wake me up..my mom said they had a little bit of trouble getting me to wake up nothing bad though. Then They moved me to Recovery room area 2 and I wasn’t there long at all. I did get popsicles there. I went home and I was awake for ever. I took half of my pain pill because I wanted to see what it would do to me at first…I never take medicine so, I have to be careful what I take. I was up most of the night. I finally took a whole one after the 6 hour time and then next day is when the pain started. It felt like it has been getting worse and not better. I am on day 8 of recovery right now. My Right side of my throat is feeling much better but my left side still feels terrible. I have been having really bad ear aches and my tonge hurts super bad. I have that white stuff in the back of my throat, but as I read it should be coming off soon. I took two weeks off of work. You are going to Def need that recovery time….and make sure if you are in College you get all your work done ahead of time. That has been my biggest stress during recovery. My Professors are great though and they both are working with me. It would of been better to have actually gotten got up before hand though. (I am an online college student) which has its perks during circumstances like this but it can still be stressful when you do not feel good. I needed to get them removed and I am glad that I did. I wish it would of been done as a child when they put tubes in my ears…the doctors would not do them then. This is a Surgery I would never ever want to endure again though. Good Luck to anyone going through this surgery and recovery now and in the future!
    God Bless and Prayers going up!
    -Brandi

  • Onder:

    Hey all, just wanted to share my experience of tonsillectomy and the risk of bleeding. I’m 30 (male). Day one and day two were ok but day 3 to day 5 i had a very bad and strange headache. (of course sore throat was there as well)
    Day 6-8 had pain 6/10. Stopped painkillers on day 10.

    On day 14 i was feeling absolutely fine ate my dinner , brushed my teeth i yawned felt lil discomfort but i thought its due to surgery but when i went to bed i felt strange warm taste in my mouth. Went to sink and spit GOSH blood was gushing out from my right side where my tonsil used to be. It was so scary; called the emergency dep, they came after 8 minutes but before they came my bleeding was almost stopped due to the fact that i was gargling icy cold water.Had to stay at hospital for two days but thankfully didn’t need any additional surgery.

    So Guys THIS BLEEDING IS SERIOUS AND REAL, PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL, It will delay your recovery and you have restart from start line.

  • Ali:

    Hey all. I want to share that my tonsills were removed yesterday and i am 16 years old . Day 1 when wake up from anesthesia i had alot of pain in my throat , My ENT said that i should eat ice cream and drink juices but it was so hard . Today is my day 2 and i am having severe pain in my throat also i cant even open my mouth . i am eating ice cream after every 1 hour but its like someone is punching your throat . Guys , please tell me is there anyway to reduce this pain? any specific medicines for this purpose . I REALLY NEED HELP AND PLEASE IF SOMEONE KNOWS HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS PAIN PLEASE REPLY!!!!!!…… Ali

  • kayko:

    hi, i just got my tonsils removed yesterday. i am in tokyo, 39 year old female, dance and yoga instructor. day of operation was painful but after a night of sleep?i feel the swelling has gone down. will keep posted

  • assignment writing:

    It’s like you’re on a mission to save me time and money!

  • writing help:

    The ability to think like that shows you’re an expert

  • Vickii:

    Hi, I’m a 58 year old lady whose ENT Doctor wanted to remove my tonsils as he suspects lymphoma. No one here has mentioned that. Had the surgery 3 days ago. About 2 hours after I woke up felt lots of pain, nausea. Also had a migraine (due to no caffeine for 24 hours) As the day progressed very hard to talk as moving my jaw and tongue hurt. Dr. prescribed liquid morphine every 4 hours. It just takes the hard edge off of the pain. I have been drinking lots of water also iced tea for the caffeine.Have had no bleeding. Haven’t felt hungry but forced myself to eat jello, ice pops, have also drank a meal replacement beverage. The info here has been helpful as my DR. really didn’t go into recovery other than some pain for up to 10 days. No talk of scabs , what they look like or that they fall off. The nurse in recovery advised me to stay away from dairy – ice cream too as this causes thick phylum. I have been sleeping quite a bit – no problem there with a humidifier.Only problem is when I wake up the inside of my mouth is all gooey so I brush my teeth very often and gargle.Well hope things to get better as the days goes by.

  • credit auto insurance:

    Great article but it didn’t have everything-I didn’t find the kitchen sink!

  • Vickii:

    Continuation from previous message: now on day 7
    As others have said jaw is sore earache and toothaches all on 1 side. Pain level varies from 4/10 up to 8/10. Today is a bad day. I cringe every time I swallow can only manage small sips of ice cold water. It feels today as bad as day 2. I understand the days 7-11 are when the scabs fall off and the throat is very sensitive. Not looking forward to that.I had a bruise on my lip after surgery – its gone now. So far no bleeding but will watch for it as the scabs come off.
    Will message again once scabs are off.

Leave a Reply

Just released! New Adult Tonsillectomy Survival Guide now available! Less than half price introductory offer! Click HERE for more information.