Healthy Living

What to Expect After a Tonsillectomy

What to Expect After a Tonsillectomy

Key Takeaways

  • Cold foods and fluids are good in soothing your throat.
  • The type of medication that you should take must be according to the given instructions by your doctor or anesthesiologist.
  • Avoid taking aspirin or any medicine that contains aspirin for two weeks or more before the day of surgery.

A tonsillectomy is mostly carried out as an outpatient operation, where the patient is allowed to go home on the same day after the surgery. However, a one-day hospital stay is recommended if complications occur after the operation and if the patient has a minor or complex medical issue.  

Preparation for Tonsillectomy 

Your doctor will most probably ask you some crucial information such as:

  • the medications that you regularly or currently take
  • a history of bleeding disorders in your family
  • any type of allergy, especially to certain antibiotics

Before undergoing a tonsillectomy, you should:

  • Avoid taking aspirin or any medicine that contains aspirin for two weeks or more before the day of surgery.
  • Avoid eating anything past midnight prior to the day of your surgery. The surgeon will give you a detailed instruction on what appropriate diet you should take as you prepare for your surgery.
  • Arrange on who will take you home after the operation.
  • Schedule a recovery period of 10 to 14 days. More time may be required for adults than children.

You should enquire from your doctor or medical staff about:

  • any limitations regarding your diet prior to the procedure
  • the time and date of your arrival at the health facility for the procedure
  • the place to check in upon your arrival
  • whether you should take other prescribed drugs or not and when to take the last dose
  • the approximate recovery period
  • the dos and don’ts during the recovery period

Diet

You should drink sufficient fluids to boost your healing, minimize bleeding risks, and prevent loss of body fluids. 

As a tonsillectomy recipient, you should consume a soft or liquid diet for a couple of days after the operation. Consider eating popsicles and often take cool liquids such as cold water, grapefruit juice, or apple juice. Soft plain foods such as mashed potatoes, gelatin, applesauce, and ice cream are also good. After managing to eat soft foods, you can gradually introduce solid foods to your diet. Cold foods and fluids are good for soothing your throat.  Don’t eat foods that are sharp, hot, or spicy since it could possibly irritate your tonsil region. Keep off from dairy foods if your throat has thick mucus since they can make you cough, thereby hurting the sites of surgery.

How to take care of yourself

  • Humidify your home with cool air to soothe a sore throat.
  • Get some rest and remain less active for 7 to 10 days after the operation.
  • Avoid interacting with people who are sick, especially those who have a sore throat or common cold to avoid being infected.
  • Ask your doctor when is the best time for you to resume work or drive again.

During the surgical operation

In the surgery room, the anesthesiologist will give you an anesthetic medication, while your oxygen saturation and heart rate will be monitored. The surgical team will standby to handle any emergency situations that may arise during the procedure. Apart from the anesthesiologist and the surgeon, a surgical technician and a nurse will be present in the room.

Once the anesthetic medication becomes effective, the surgeon will remove your tonsils together with your adenoids via the mouth. No external cut will be made. The doctor will then use an electrical cauterizing unit to burn the tonsil together with the adenoid base. The entire surgery normally takes less than an hour. After the surgery, you will be placed in a recovery room and the surgeon goes out to inform the people who had accompanied you about the progress of the surgery.

The type of medication that you should take must be according to the given instructions by your doctor or anesthesiologist.

What to expect during recovery

You will most probably feel pain in your throat, ears, jaws, or neck, which is normal. The following tips can assist you in relieving pain, improving your recovery, and preventing complications after the surgery.

  • Take pain-relieving medications as prescribed by your doctor or medical staff to ease the pain.
  • Consume plenty of fluids such as ice pops and water to prevent dehydration.
  • Eat foods such as broth or applesauce since they are easier to chew and swallow. Once you are able to eat such foods, then you can gradually include pudding and ice cream in your diet if your stomach can tolerate them. Spicy, hard, or crunchy foods may hurt your throat and trigger bleeding. Therefore, it is best to avoid them.
  • Don’t perform strenuous tasks for 14 days after the operation. Ask your doctor about the type of activities you should avoid and when to resume work or school.

Bleeding

It is normal to experience bleeding for 4 to 8 days after a tonsillectomy. However, sometimes, bleeding may extend up to 21 days. 

Try to get some rest by being less active and drink ice water if you experience light bleeding after the surgery. However, go back to the emergency department as soon as you notice heavy or excessive bleeding after the operation.

You can prevent or minimize the chances of bleeding in your tonsil site by:

  • avoiding smoking or areas that have smoke since smoke can trigger heavy bleeding in your throat  
  • placing a bag of crushed ice wrapped in a towel on your neck. 
  • avoiding a hot shower or bath
  • avoiding hot and spicy foods or drinks 
  • toothbrushing or gargling gently 
  • not coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

Tell your doctor if you have a cold or an allergy that can make you sneeze or cough, so he or she can give you an appropriate medication. 

What to expect after the surgery

  • The procedure is normally painful and you may have a sore throat that will probably last for 10 to 14 days following the operation.
  • The pain may become severe 5 to 6 days after the surgery due to the contraction of the white membrane on the surgery site.
  • Adenoidectomy causes less discomfort than adenotonsillectomy.
  • Your ears may be painful 7 to 10 days after the procedure.
  • The white areas on the surgery site aren’t an indication of an infection. They will disappear 14 to 21 days after the operation.
  • Having a foul breath is normal after the surgery.
  • Blood in your saliva, nasal discharges, or bleeding may occur after the surgery. Nevertheless, seek medical emergency services if the bleeding is heavy or constant.
  • Your sense of taste may change after the procedure, but the problem will go away after a few weeks.

Danger signs to watch out

Seek prompt medical attention if you notice:

  • Bright red bleeding - It isn't abnormal to see tiny spots of dark blood coming as a nasal discharge or in the saliva. However, bright red bleeding is a red flag that requires urgent attention. The remedy may involve another surgery.  
  • Extremely high body temperature - You should contact your doctor immediately if you have a body temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius) or higher.
  • Dehydration - Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you're dehydrated. Some of the dehydration signs include minimal urination, lightheadedness, loss of strength, thirst, headache, or dizziness. A dehydrated child may have tearless cries or a reduced urination (less than 2 to 3 times in a day).
  • Breathing issues - It is normal for patients who have had a tonsillectomy to snore or breathe noisily for about one week after the operation. Nevertheless, an emergency medical attention is essential if you are experiencing a difficulty in breathing.