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?


32 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.

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