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Tonsillectomy in Children: How to Ease the Recovery After Surgery

Updated on December 31, 2012
Grace gets ready for her surgery!
Grace gets ready for her surgery! | Source

Preparing for a Tonsillectomy

A tonsillectomy is a routine procedure done mostly in children, although adults sometimes need to have this surgery. The procedure is outpatient and takes about 45 minutes. Typically the adenoids are also removed during this procedure. So how can you prepare for this surgery? First, make sure that your child has a full stomach. Since this surgery requires anesthesia, doctors will tell you no food or drink after midnight. Depending on what time your child's surgery is scheduled for, it may be a long wait before she can eat or drink. You certainly don't want any complaining about being hungry while waiting for the surgery.

Be sure that your child understands what will happen. In my experience, it is best to be honest with your child. Let her know that you will be with her in the beginning and then the doctors will take her to another room where she will blow into a balloon and she will fall asleep. When she wakes up, you will be brought back to see her and she will get to have a popsicle!

In addition to the mental preparation, there are the preparations that need to be made at home. Your child's throat will be very sore and she will not want to eat much. Have plenty of jello, applesauce, and other soft foods for your child to eat. The other important thing that you will need to do is to keep your child well hydrated. Even if she is not interested in eating at first, be sure that you have her drink continuously.

Before and After Pictures of a Tonsillectomy

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grace's tonsils were very enlarged.They were starting to grow around her uvula and causing sleep apnea.After the surgery the back of the throat will look green and puss like.  This is normal and scabs will eventually form on the sores.
Grace's tonsils were very enlarged.
Grace's tonsils were very enlarged. | Source
They were starting to grow around her uvula and causing sleep apnea.
They were starting to grow around her uvula and causing sleep apnea. | Source
After the surgery the back of the throat will look green and puss like.  This is normal and scabs will eventually form on the sores.
After the surgery the back of the throat will look green and puss like. This is normal and scabs will eventually form on the sores. | Source

What to Expect After a Tonsillectomy

Immediately following the surgery your child will probably be very tired from the anesthesia. Allow your child to rest as needed. My daughter slept on and off for much of that first day. It is also normal for the temperature to be slightly raised for the first few days. You may also find that your child's voice sounds a little different. This is normal and the voice will most likely return to normal after the healing process has been completed. Keep the activity level low for the first week, but avoid just laying around in bed all day. Keep lots of good movies, books, and coloring or art activities on hand.

Remember that each child is different and so will the healing process. My daughter was eating ham and a brownie by the evening of the first day. Definitely not typical, but I wasn't going to stop her either.

Eating After a Tonsillectomy

Foods to Eat
Foods to Avoid
foods with sharp edges
acidic foods
citrus foods
well cooked noodles with butter
gum (the chewing action is good for the throat even if they are not actually eating.)
Most doctors advise that you eat soft foods after a tonsillectomy. Although don't discourage your child if he or she wants to eat some foods that are more firm. Just remind him to take small bites and to chew completely.

What should patients eat after a tonsillectomy?

There are many great foods to eat while recovering from a tonsillectomy. We were advised to avoid anything that was red. This is so that you are able to monitor whether there is bleeding or not. You don't want to guessing whether it is red dye or blood that your child is coughing up so just avoid red colored foods altogether for several days. Some children have a higher tolerance for pain and can eat firmer foods, but you should still avoid any foods that have very sharp edges or can get stuck in the back of the throat. Foods that are highly acidic may also cause irritation to the open wound. Your best guide is your child. Ask her what she wants and she will let you know what she is most comfortable eating.

After about the third day you will typically see your child's activity level return to a more normal level. Be cautious of days 3-5. Often times there will be an increase in pain on these days. In general keep your child comfortable. Your child will be back to normal in no time!


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    • bankscottage profile image

      Mark Shulkosky 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      cardelean, great advice except for one item. Before surgery, you do NOT want your child to have a full stomach. Patients coming to the OR with a full stomach could regurgitate during the induction of or emergence from anesthesia. The food can get down into the lungs and cause a very severe, possibly life-threatening, aspiration pneumonia.

      That is why patients are instructed to have nothing after midnight. There has been some liberalization of that requirement and patiens may be able to have clear fluids up to 2 or 3 hours prior to the procedure (particularly if the procedure is later in the day). Check with the anesthesiologist to see what his or her rules are regarding this.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Grace looks so cute in her surgical bonnet. Cara, the information here will help many parents facing this surgery with their own kids. I also found the table of foods very handy. Thanks for including the sequence of recovery...that's so important. Voted up/across and sharing.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Good info here. I've known a couple people who had theirs out when they were adults and it isn't fun. Glad she's better!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Very interesting Silver Fish. I was not advised to avoid dairy but I actually tried to because I thought about the mucus as well. We are on day 5 and she hasn't had any tylenol since day two. She was also eating chips last night for our New Years celebration. I think that it's important not to "baby" the situation but also to let the patient take the lead. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 

      6 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Great hub, iereseting to see differences in aftercare.

      In the Uk children and adults are encourage to eat rough but not sharp food. Toast is usually given within a couple of hours of surgery.

      We are advised to avoid cold foods and dairy because it is mucus forming.


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