Tonsillectomy for Children: What to Expect at Home
Your Child's Recovery
Most children have quite a bit of ear and throat pain for up to 2 weeks after a tonsillectomy. They usually have good days and bad days. Your child's pain may get worse before it gets better. Your child may also have bad breath for up to 2 weeks.
Your child will feel tired for several days and then gradually become more active. Your child should be able to go back to school or daycare in 1 week and return to full activities in 2 weeks.
There will be white scabs where the tonsils were. These usually fall off in 5 to 10 days. You may see some blood in your child's saliva at this time.
Your child may snore or breathe through the mouth at night. This usually stops 10 to 14 days after surgery. The mouth breathing can cause mouth dryness and pain. Place a humidifier by your child's bed or close to your child. This may make it easier for your child to breathe. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
Your child's voice may also sound odd after surgery. Your child's voice will get back to normal in 2 to 3 weeks.
Nearly all children, even thin ones, lose weight after the surgery. As long as your child drinks liquids, this is okay.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Your child may want to spend the first few days in bed. When your child is ready, they can begin playing again. Encourage quiet indoor play for the first 3 to 5 days.
- Your child will probably be able to go back to school or daycare in 7 to 10 days. Your child should not go to gym or PE class for about 2 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
- For about 2 weeks, do not let your child play hard. Take care that your child doesn't do anything to turn upside down, such as playing on monkey bars or doing somersaults. Also avoid sports, bike riding, or running until your doctor says it is okay.
- For about 7 days, keep your child away from crowds or people that you know have a cold or influenza (flu). This can help prevent your child from getting an infection.
- You and your child should stay close to medical care for about 2 weeks in case there is delayed bleeding.
- Your child may bathe as usual.
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids for the first 24 hours to avoid becoming dehydrated. Use clear fluids, such as water, apple juice, and flavoured ice pops. Avoid hot drinks, soda pop, and citrus juices, such as orange juice. These may cause more pain.
- When your child is ready to eat, start with easy-to-swallow foods. These include soft noodles, pudding, and dairy foods such as yogurt and ice cream. Dairy foods may cause the saliva to thicken, making it hard to swallow. Try them in small amounts. Canned or cooked fruit, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes are other good choices.
- You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse advice line.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
- Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
- If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
- Give the medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, be sure your child takes them as directed. Your child should not stop taking them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
- Your child has trouble breathing.
- Your child has a lot of bleeding.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
- Your child is bleeding
- Your child is too sick to his or her stomach to drink any fluids.
- Your child cannot keep down fluids.
- Your child has new pain, or the pain gets worse.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology