Problems After Tonsillectomy in Children: Care Instructions
At home after a tonsillectomy, some children have problems like dehydration, severe pain, or heavy bleeding. Now that your child has had medical care for such a problem, you can help him or her heal. Give your child plenty of fluids. Use pain control measures. And be sure to follow any special care instructions from your child's doctor.
If the scabs on your child's tonsil area have not come off, you may see a small amount of blood in your child's saliva when they do. Keeping your child hydrated can help prevent this from being a big problem.
You can expect that your child will lose weight. As long as your child is drinking liquids, this is okay. As soon as your child can swallow food, offer soothing soft foods. Your child will probably gain the weight back in a few weeks.
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 call line 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.
How can you care for your child at home?
Fluids and food
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. Offer clear fluids, such as water and apple juice.
- If it is painful to swallow, start out with cold drinks, flavoured ice pops, and ice cream. Cold can help with pain.
- Try soft foods that are easy to swallow. Offer soft noodles, canned or cooked fruit, scrambled eggs, or mashed potatoes. Give dairy foods, such as yogurt and ice cream, in small amounts. Dairy can cause the saliva to thicken, making it hard to swallow.
- Avoid hot drinks, soda pop, and citrus juices, such as orange juice. These can make throat pain worse. Avoid hard or scratchy foods and other acidic foods that can sting the throat.
- Place a humidifier close to your child. Humid air helps prevent a dry mouth and throat pain after surgery. And humid air may make it easier for your child to breathe. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
- To control pain, give your child pain medicine on a schedule. Don't wait till your child is in a lot of pain.
- 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 use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) without your doctor's okay. They may increase the chance of bleeding.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, be sure your child takes them as directed. Your child should not stop taking them just because he or she feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
Rest and activity
- Your child will feel tired for several days and then gradually become more active. Follow your doctor's instructions on when your child can start being active again and go back to school or daycare.
- For about 2 weeks, do not let your child play hard. Take care that your child does not do anything that would turn him or her upside down, such as playing on monkey bars or doing somersaults. Also avoid sports, bike riding, or running until the doctor says it is okay.
- Until the doctor says your child is well enough, 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.
- Keep your child close to medical care for about 2 weeks in case there is delayed bleeding.
- Your child may bathe as usual.
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 a lot ofbleeding from the mouth or nose.
- Your child has trouble breathing.
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks coming from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
- Your child is bleeding.
- Your child has new pain or pain that gets worse.
- Your child has signs of needing more fluids. These signs include sunken eyes with few tears, a dry mouth with little or no spit, and little or no urine for 6 hours.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call 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: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine