Tonsillectomy: What to Expect at Home

Skip to the navigation

Your Recovery

A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. Sometimes the adenoids are removed during the same surgery. The tonsils and adenoids are in the throat. Your doctor did the surgery through your mouth.

Most adults have a lot of throat pain for 1 to 2 weeks or longer. The pain may get worse before it gets better. The pain in your throat can also make your ears hurt.

You may have good days and bad days. Most people find that they have the most pain in the first 8 days. You probably will feel tired for 1 to 2 weeks. You may have bad breath for up to 2 weeks.

You may be able to go back to work or your usual routine in 1 to 2 weeks.

There will be a white coating in your throat where the tonsils were. The coating is like a scab, and it usually starts to come off in 5 to 10 days. It is usually gone in 10 to 16 days. You may see some blood in your spit as the coating comes off.

After surgery, you may snore or breathe through your mouth at night. This usually gets better 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Mouth breathing can make your mouth and throat dry or sore. Place a humidifier by your bed when you sleep. This may make it easier for you to breathe. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.

At first, your voice may sound different. Your voice probably will return to normal in 2 to 6 weeks.

It is common for people to lose weight after this surgery, because it can hurt to swallow food at first. As long as you are drinking plenty of liquids, this is okay. You will probably gain the weight back when you begin to eat normally again.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for 2 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For 2 weeks, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Avoid dirt, dust, and heat for 2 weeks after surgery. These things can irritate your throat.
  • For about 1 week, try to avoid crowds or people who you know have a cold or the flu. This can help prevent you from getting an infection.
  • You may bathe as usual.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 1 to 2 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

Diet

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • If it is painful to swallow, start out with Popsicles, ice cream, or cold or room-temperature drinks. Do not eat or drink red food items, such as red juice or red Jell-O. The colour may make you think you are bleeding. Avoid hot drinks, soda pop, orange or tomato juice, and other acidic foods that can sting the throat. These may make throat pain worse and cause bleeding.
  • For 2 weeks, choose soft foods like pudding, yogurt, canned or cooked fruit, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes. Avoid eating hard or scratchy foods like chips or raw vegetables.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your pain medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You bleed from your mouth or nose.
  • You vomit blood.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain gets much worse.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter X297 in the search box to learn more about "Tonsillectomy: What to Expect at Home."

Current as of: July 29, 2016