Tips for Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery

Tips for Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery

Firstly, let me start with #NotADoctor. This is based on my personal experience. Please make sure you follow the clinical guidelines set by your doctor above all else. You can read about my surgery day itself here.

 

(A quick look around the internet will tell you the advice varies a lot, which is why it is so important to follow what what given to YOU. Also, looking around the internet seems to show people who won’t ask their doctor questions, which is weird & stupid and just ask your doctor if you have real issues, ok? You’re an adult with a genuine medical condition.)

 

Tips for Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery

 

Tips for Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery

 

1) Sleeping hurts

Most of the first week I woke up in pain at some point from midnight on & had to take another dose of painkillers. Consider scheduling an alarm to take a middle of the night dose.

 

2) Conserve energy

Things like showering will be plenty of activity. I cried in the GP waiting room on my 5th day post surgery because I was so tired from going 2km down the road & sitting still in a chair.

 

If you have a partner, make sure they understand prior to the surgery that they will have to do everything for you, including cooking and bringing you drugs & water. Pretend you are wicked and rest.

 

3) Stay hydrated

I started having a fizzy hydralite (or whatever they are called) drink when I woke up in the morning. I figured that’s when I’m most dehydrated from not drinking overnight & I could make it a good start to the day. The hospital also gave me two hydralite icy poles so I kept them in the freezer for the really bad times.

 

The rest of the day I used a small cup & kept it filled with cold water from a jug in the fridge. Cold water is your best friend now, ok? Your partner, pets & friend from school have been bumped down your love list & cold water is now at the top.

 

If you like this blog post, you can buy me a virtual coffee.

 

4) Ice packs rule

Keep a few bendy ice packs on hand. Very good for the sore throat and the referred nerve pain that will shoot out to your ears as you heal. Also have a heap of clean tea towels or other such items on hand to wrap them in. Don’t give your face freezer burn. 

 

5) Don’t skip drugs

I found that if I maintained a good dosage level, I was much more comfortable. More importantly, I was able to eat & drink more which is key for healing. My hospital told me to take paracetamol & oxycodone (and no anti-inflammatory medication due to increased risk of bleeding).

 

When I had a follow up call with the hospital two days after surgery, I told them I’d fallen asleep & missed some doses which made it painful. Then I told them I planned to try and keep a good dosage level for a few days until I knew what I needed.

 

What this meant for me was taking two paracetamol, then in two hours time, taking an oxycodone… rinse & repeat. As I could take these roughly every four hours, this worked well. The nurse on the phone agreed it was a good strategy.

 

AGAIN: #NotADoctor and ALWAYS follow the maximum dosage instructions on a packet.

 

Make sure you understand what drugs (screw brand names, learn the ACTUAL DRUGS you are taking, it’s smarter & safer and yes it’s a pet peeve of mine when people don’t understand the drug they are putting in their body) you are taking & when. If you ever are confused about what you can take and when, just call the pharmacy where you filled the prescription & ask your questions. I’ve done this many times in the past & they are always happy to help.

 

6) The pain is random

I’ve had days where I took only paracetamol & thought “woah yeah, look at me kicking recovery’s ass” … followed a few hours later by “holy crap that hurts pass me the fucking oxycodone NOW”.

 

7) Ask for a repeat of your narcotics

I’ve rarely taken prescription narcotics in my life & had never been given oxycodone before. Thankfully I tolerated it well. However, on day 5 I was down to my last 3 tablets so I had to make a trip to the GP & get another box.

 

Like I said, I’ve rarely had anything strong so I don’t know the laws & policy around this, but if you can get a repeat of whatever narcotics you are prescribed, then it will save you sitting in a doctors surgery around sick people when you need to be bingeing on Netflix in bed. Small things like this make a really big difference.

 

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8) Consider Children’s Liquid Painkillers

A great pharmacist suggested this to me. I bought some children’s paracetamol so I had it on hand in the first few days. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to swallow, so the theory was to take the liquid paracetamol, then hopefully that would kick in enough to get a stronger tablet down. Thankfully I didn’t need this, so I gave the bottle to a colleague who had kids. The only caveat with this is that you’ll have to adjust the dosage yourself to get an adult dose – so please ensure you understand how to do this safely! 

 

9) Swallowing Is WEIRD

I tried to look up how tonsils impact the action of swallowing, but I found frustratingly little useful information. For at least the first few days after my surgery, it felt like I had to swallow twice to actually get things down. I don’t know if this is because my throat had to learn how to swallow without tonsils, because of the wounds being sore, because the muscles needed to re-learn how to swallow… like I said, I tried to look this up to understand why it felt this way but I really couldn’t find anything useful. For me, it fixed itself quickly so I’m going to make a guess that it’s something to do with the wounds? Anyway, like everything, if it is bothering you then make sure you talk to a doctor.

 

Is it bad?

Yes, the pain is bad.

 

They don’t prescribe oxycodone for shits & giggles. There were times I was on both paracetamol & oxycodone & had an ice pack on my throat & I was still in pain.

 

Is a tonsillectomy recovery worse than tonsillitis?

Yes and no.

 

Yes – because you will be in pain.

 

No – because I didn’t feel that constant awful viral feeling. My temperature was more normal than it had been in months. I also never got the razor blade, crying in agony to swallow water feeling that I’ve had in severe bouts of tonsillitis.

 

I think this one is even more based on personal opinion & experience than everything else I’m writing. To me, pain can be managed, and it’s for a fairly finite amount of time, so it’s doable. Being vaguely viral for months & having to force myself to attend work & pretend I felt ok because no one gives a shit when you’ve been sick for months – that was harder for me.

 

Will you miss eating corn chips for a few weeks?

Fuck yes. I love corn chips.

 

Other reading

Over time, I’m hoping to add links to other accounts, so you can get a wider perspective outside of the Quora type “OMG I’M IN AGONY HELP” type of posts that google likes to show.

  • Grasping for Objectivity – the main difference I would say here is that I was explicitly told not to exercise. Again, much of recovery means following the directions your health team gave you, over and above what you read on the internet. Maybe they were told it was ok to exercise. That’s cool too. The swallowing parts were really well described here.
  • Yet Another Bitter Infertile – very good list of Dos and Don’ts

 

Any tips for a tonsillectomy recovery from your personal experience?

 

60 Replies to “Tips for Adult Tonsillectomy Recovery”

  1. My husband had his tonsils out at 26yo, when we’d been married just a couple of years. He was great on the drugs in hospital, and then came home to panadeine forte. Not quite the same bang for your buck!!! He found he had to keep up his dosage or things went south.

    He found ice cream hurt too much, but found jelly soothing (not so cold).
    Quiche was a favourite when he needed to transition to food that wasn’t so soft anymore.
    If he could’ve lived on scrambled eggs and porridge he would have been happy, but that’s not what they said to do….toast pretty early on. He didn’t enjoy that at all.
    He also learnt that a walk to the letter box could be hilariously fraught with unforeseen problems. Who knew it was such a long way!!!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I was worried they’d only give me panadeine forte; that’s what it says in the paperwork. But hospital staff kept mentioning the endone. I had a list of things for my husband to ask before I got discharged, in case I couldn’t talk. One of them was to find out how strong the painkillers were before I left the hospital, in case I wanted something stronger. Keeping up the doses really, really helps.
      I was pretty lucky and on my second night home, managed to eat chicken nuggets. If that’s food… but overall I was able to eat and drink if I was on drugs so I think that helped. Sure, sometimes I had to do it with an ice pack on my face but it was all do-able.
      I was expecting loopy stuff to happen to me on the strong drugs but nothing did!

  2. I’m just glad it’s over with for you!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Same! I’m hoping my energy returns soon too, still a bit low in that area. But overall the surgery site part of the recovery has been excellent.

  3. Sounds dreadful. Thank god for good drugs and good ridance to those crappy tonsils. 🙂

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Good riddance indeed!

  4. Holy shit this sounds awful! Thankfully it’s one of those things that you only get done once and now the worst parts are behind you. Bring on the corn chips!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I’ll still take a week of pain over months of sickness! And yep, already dug into some corn chips haha.

  5. I hope you continue to make a good recovery Vanessa.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Me too 🙂

  6. I’m so pleased that’s over – it sounds awful. Here’s to happy, healthy, corn chip filled days ahead!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Here’s to that indeed 🙂

  7. My sister had chronic tonsilitis and had hers out in her late twenties. I can remember her pain! But she never had them again. I used to get it terribly and thankfully grew out of it! Here is to the recovery xxx

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      The turning chronic part is the worst, seriously. I was sick for three straight months before this. I always hoped I’d stop getting it, and would even have a year without it sometimes, but it was just so, so overdue for me. I don’t have private health so I’m VERY lucky I got in so quickly in the public system, even the ENT consultant was surprised how fast I got them out.

  8. Emi Marshall says: Reply

    I just got my tonsils out yesterday morning, this pain is not to underestimate holy shit. I managed to get a banana milkshake and a yohgurt in me yesterday at around 6pm, But if it wasnt for the painkillers I really dont know what I would do. I’m going home later on, I really hope I’ll be okay, because I im not in state of taking pills (I can barely swallow pills when I’m feeling good), I’ll just have to see.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Hey Emi – I won’t lie, it will be a tough few days! I found my pain was well controlled within a week. A tip I was given by a pharmacist (which I need to go back and put in this post!) was to buy some children’s liquid paracetamol – I did have some on hand but thankfully didn’t need it. I certainly needed to be on painkillers to eat for most of the first week.

  9. Hey Vanessa I got my tonsils taken out a few days ago holy shit it hurts like a bitch but is it is normal to have the bad breathe and cry over stupid things

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Hey, I did read online that bad breath is normal, but like anything, if it worries you, make sure you talk to a medical pro! I’m not sure if I had it, I didn’t really think to check haha.
      Personally, I’m more likely to cry when tired and frustrated, and being in pain is tiring and frustrating for sure. Take care and be kind to yourself while you heal, especially in these early days!

  10. Ouchy!! Hope you’re feeling brand new real soon!! #teamIBOT

  11. Im on day 8 of recovery. Still taking oxys every 6 hours, just 1 tab. my teeth hurt, i am defenitlely feeling quite a bit better. Just weak. Lost 10 lbs in 7 days, which is fine. I feel peeling weird skin and scab coming off, going down my throat. Day by day!!

    1. Yep, I had to extend my leave from work by a few days just to help regain some more energy! It’s a big thing to recover from but it sounds like you’re on your way. Fingers crossed it keeps getting better from here for you.

  12. OMG! Swallowing is totally so weird! And trying to sleep sucks. Just got mine out 2 days ago.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It’s a very bizarre feeling, isn’t it?!

  13. My ears!! Day 6 for me and my ears are on FIRE!!! I haven’t seen anyone really say much about their ears… has this been normal for anyone? I feel like my uvula is attached to my tongue.. hopefully I can swallow normal again soon!!

    1. Hey Cyndi. My understanding from what my medical team told me is that it’s the referred nerve pain that people experience. But if it’s concerning you, please get it checked out.

  14. I´m going to get mine out tomorrow morning. Yikes I´m so nervous, but I found your blog about it so I´m a little less nervous about the procedure. Thank you! =)
    So 10:00 in the morning I will be at the doctors getting them out.
    I´m from Iceland b.t.w. so I´m not sure if the procedure is different between countires or not. But the main thing is the same, get those tonsils OUT! =) hahaha

    1. The time here is 23:30 in the evening. Saw that it says 9:29 am on my comment. 🙂

      1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

        I think it’s showing my Australian time zone 🙂

    2. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      All the best for tomorrow!! I hope it goes well for you and that you enjoy your tonsil-free life 🙂

  15. Hi there, I am going to get mine out this Thursday April 18, and let me tell you I am super scared!!!!!!!!! after reading all those crazy and scary comments I dont know what to think anymore. My weight is 124 , imagine me losing 10 pounds 🙁 I am going to disappear.
    I will keep you updated , hopefully everything will be nice and smoothly for me

    1. Jamison Daniels says: Reply

      How did your surgery go Silvia? I have mine scheduled in 9 days. So nervous. 47 year old male who has had two unsuccessful jaw surgeries. It’s the discomfort of swallowing and breathing that scares me the most

      1. How did it go for you? I’m 40 years old and I’ve heard the older you are the worst it is to recover. So scared. I will be getting it done the week before Thanksgiving Break. I’m a teacher and it’s too close to the beginning of the year so I have to wait for at a least a break.

        1. How did it go? I am 39 and getting mine out on January 20th. I am SO scared. I know it needs to be done but UGH!

          1. Vanessa Smith says:

            Mine went smoothly enough; I mean it’s not fun and it is painful but SO WORTH IT in my experience. WAY better out than in! Fingers crossed for you.

  16. Getting mine out tomorrow morning, after 7 years of chronic tonsillitis. I’m so scared out my mind, but praying and hoping I can manage the pain!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Best of luck – it seems to be a rough few weeks for everyone but that’s nothing compared to chronic tonsillitis. Here’s to a tonsil free life!

      1. Jamison Daniels says: Reply

        Got mine done 2 months ago and a 47 year old male. My recovery was a breeze. The two things that made my recovery so much quicker was a home iv service and some will even put your meds through iv. Take pain pills religiously and eat. The iv keeps you super hydrated and can’t tell you there is nothing more important than that. Good luck

        1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

          Oh an IV service would have been amazing. Not one that was offered by my local pubic hospital but it would have been nice to have it and take away that pre surgery worry I had of wondering if I would be able to swallow pain medication.

      2. Jennifer Bergman says: Reply

        A mass started growing from my tonsils, so they are both being removed tomorrow. There’s a cancer concern. I’m staying positive that the results will be benign. Thanks for all the info! I found it to be very helpful:) Onward and upward:)

        1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

          Best of luck for the removal Jennifer – I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s all benign.

          1. Jennifer says:

            Thanks so much:) I’m ready to put this behind me!

  17. Raven W Valdez says: Reply

    I had my tonsillectomy yesterday. I’m taking my pain pills every 6 hours and pain isn’t to bad as of now. However my uvula has swelled pretty bad and rests on my tongue which triggers my gag reflex and that hurts. I’ve been using pop cycles to help reduce the swelling but doesn’t seem to be working. Any advice on reducing inflammation since I can’t take antiinflammatories?

    1. I’m not a doctor, you’ll need to chat to your general practitioner, surgical team or local pharmacy for medical advice. Hang in there though, and don’t hesitate to go to an emergency department if you are concerned, you are post operative after all!

      1. Jamison Daniels says: Reply

        From my personal experience. INSIST INSIST INSIST on them over prescribing you steroids for thr swelling. INSIST INSIST INSIST. It will make your life a 1,000 times easier

  18. I got mine out Friday and today is Wednesday the dr just gave me some steroids to reduce the swelling in my throat I have been having a terrible time recovering had to switch pain meds but I found this chat and thanks you guys have helped me get some good ideas ! ?

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Fingers crossed it keeps improving, Cassandra! It’s certainly not a fun time but for me it was totally worth the pain for a few weeks to not get tonsillitis again!

  19. Thank you for sharing your experience, I have found it very helpful.
    Getting mine out on the 22nd October and am quite nervous about the after surgery fun. I’m
    Just hoping my 2.5yr old son is ok with mummy not being normal.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It’s certainly not a fun time but it was so worth it for me. Knowing the pain is temporary vs being sick all the time was what helped me manage. Fingers crossed for a smooth surgery & recovery.

  20. I have just been through the worst bout of tonsilitis in my life and am about to schedule my surgery for two weeks time. Having read a few stories on the web I have to say I am feeling pretty freaking scared now but your post seemed to be slightly less horrific than some of the others so fingers crossed its not the worst pain of my life. I have had a caesarean section, wisdom teeth extraction, 2 natural births, varicose vein stripping and an appendectomy but am totally frightened now of this bloody surgery!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It’s certainly not going to be a fun few weeks post surgery, but for me it was so much easier to cope with knowing that it was the end of that pain & suffering. Proper rest and proper medication makes a difference – I don’t know why we can’t/don’t get that for severe and chronic tonsillitis but at least you do when they get snipped out!

  21. Currently in my hospital bed having had my tonsils removed less than 24 hours ago. The pain now is similar to when my tonsils are swollen and infected, minus the awful body aches I experience, so things are looking up.
    Upon waking up from the anesthesia my nose was completely congested, I could not breathe from my nose, and I was unable to blow it. I think the problem was that I couldn’t close up my throat to force enough air pressure through my nose. I was able to “suck” some of the mucus back down my nose and into my throat to spit out, which was mainly blood. Within the first two hours my nose cleared up.
    For the first six hours or so, much of my breathing sounded like a light snore. Even though I was awake, I could hear the air rattling in my throat.
    I was out of surgery by 3:30 and eating dinner by 6:30. Toast, tea, ice cream, and congee. I’m an American in a Hong Kong hospital, and congee (a think rice porridge) was on the menu and felt nice on the throat.

  22. Thank you for this post. I am on day seven of having one tonsil removed, it’s been much more painful of an experience than I thought. Today is the first day that I feel semi-functional. Your tips have helped normalize some of the things going on for me and gave me ideas to ease the pain.

    My problem was that the pain meds made me sick (and I couldn’t eat much). I went through days three and four without meds and they were awful. I ended up taking half a pain pill with tiny bites of processed bread and ginger ale. Then eating was easier and I was able to take half a pill every four hours which made things much more bearable and my stomach was ok.

    Here are some things that I ate:
    – banana smoothie (banana, oat milk, a spoon of yogurt and ice)
    – avocado smoothie
    – apple sauce (with a spoon of yogurt)
    – coconut water (helps with hydration and is a diarrhetic)
    – frozen mango chunks
    – congee, lentils, puree veggie soup, cold miso soup, plain noodles and butter, egg salad (just an egg and oil smashed up basically)
    – vanilla ice cream too 🙂

    I also gargled with slightly luke warm water and sea salt, that helped my mouth feel clean after I ate and cleared out mucus in the back of my throat. My jaw, tongue and ear were all super sore after. It’s a brutal surgery that’s complicated by not being able to eat much. They said it’s a two week recovery, I couldn’t see why before, but, ugh, now I do.

    Godspeed for all who are having it done.

  23. Thank you so much. I’m on day 4 and I wish I had read this earlier. This sums it up perfectly and I feel so useless/like I should be doing more by now and taking less narcotics. I honestly thought ‘they do this to small kids all the time, I’ll be tired but it won’t be that bad’. The pain is absolutely worse than tonsillitis although you’re right about the lack of fever.

    Thank you thank you thank you

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I hope you’re still on the road to recovery. I think tonsils are a weird on where it’s ‘only’ day surgery but recovery is still hard!

  24. Thank you for this blog! I’m 67 y.o. female. Will have my tonsillectomy in a week. Cannot believe I’m having to go through this at this age! Very scared, of course! Husband is taking time off to help me, thank goodness! Oh, I’ll definitely be taking pain meds on time!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      Hi Karen, definitely follow your doctors advice on timing and quantity of pain meds – that’s for sure 🙂 Makes a big difference to recovery and stress levels if you’re comfortable. Best of luck!

  25. Elizabeth johns says: Reply

    It had been 7 days and the right side hurts mlm or the the left but both are still in pain. I drink some water still cant eat. Water fills like it is burning my throat. I have no other ideas on how to help the pain. If you do please fill free to contact me thank you for your blog I have learned a lot.
    Mrs. Johns

    1. If you’ve done all you can with little tips and tricks as well as what your team suggested/prescribed, then calling the medical team back for further advice is the safest option. I hope you get some resolution quickly.

  26. Thanks for all the great advice. I am 50 and i am on day 8. Still can’t each but a 1/2 cup noodles and ice chips. It was so nice to see others thoughts on this. I am still crying daily with pain. The one thing i didn’t see was take a Sudafed also. On day 5 i had to go back to the ER dehydrated, needed steroids and pain reliever. I am much improved but sore can’t sleep more than 2 hours.

  27. I’m day 7 in, and I feel like this is never going to end. Every day is a little bit different in pain location, and nights are killer. I HIGHLY suggest asking the doc for nausea medication if you are prone to nausea! I find they usually don’t give it unless you ask, but with all this medication that makes you dizzy, it’s worth it! I had so much trouble eating without it.
    I don’t hear much about days 7-14 post op, mostly first week, so it feels like I’m supposed to be on the up and up, but I don’t feel that way right now. I also agree with everything that was said in the blog. Small tip: everything you eat or drink tastes slightly off/gross because of the taste of your scabs. I found cold coconut water to be not only extremely hydrating and comforting, but the light sweetness masked the bad flavor and it’s been a life saver. Other juices are sometimes painful to drink because they sting your cuts, not coconut water!

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