Tonsillectomy for Children: What to Expect at Home

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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. A fever up to 38.9°C is common on the day of surgery and the next day. 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. He or she 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, and you may see some blood in your child's saliva at this time.

Your child may snore or breathe through his or her 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 return to normal in 2 to 3 weeks.

Nearly all children, even thin ones, lose weight after the surgery. As long as your child is drinking liquids, this is okay. Your child will probably gain the weight back in 2 to 3 weeks.

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?

Activity

  • Your child may want to spend the first few days in bed. When your child is ready, he or she 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. He or she 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 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 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 the 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.

Diet

  • 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 call line.

Medicines

  • 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.
  • See that your child takes pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, see that your child takes it as prescribed.
    • Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medicine. Do not use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) without your doctor's okay, because they may increase the chance of bleeding. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to his or her 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 he or she 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 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.

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.

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

  • Your child is vomiting blood.
  • Your child bleeds from the mouth or nose.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's pain gets much 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.
  • Your child will not drink liquids the day after surgery.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your doctor suggested a laxative for your child and he or she does not have a bowel movement after taking the laxative.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: July 29, 2016