What Is the Process of Tonsillectomy Recovery?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2019
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A tonsillectomy is a minor surgical procedure performed under general anesthetic in the hospital to remove the tonsils. Tonsillectomy recovery is usually quick and involves the use of analgesia, eating softer, well-chewed food for a couple of days, and rest to allow healing. After a tonsillectomy, patients may stay a day or two in the hospital, depending on their recovery. It is often advised that a person stays home for up to two weeks after surgery, to minimize exposure to infections while healing.

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, which are found in the back of the throat. Many people, especially in childhood, suffer from repeat infections of tonsillitis that require numerous courses of antibiotics each year and loss of school or work days. In these cases, tonsillectomy is often recommended, as the tonsils are not essential to the functioning of the body. Recovery may take slightly longer in adults than children.

The operation itself is a relatively quick procedure, done under general anesthetic. Tonsillectomy recovery may be influenced by numerous factors, including response to general anesthetic, overall health, exposure to infection, and pain threshold. Analgesics will be given and may be needed for a couple of days after the operation. In some cases, prophylactic antibiotics may be prescribed.


Post-tonsillectomy, the throat may appear white. The healing occurs under this layer, and it will slowly disappear over time. Some people may also experience slight earache post-surgery, which is completely normal. Should this persist or worsen, or a fever develops, medical attention should be sought. As with any operation, there is a small risk of complications post-surgery, including bleeding. If this happens, urgent medical attention is necessary.

During tonsillectomy recovery, hard foods such as toast or potato chips should be avoided, but it is not necessary to have only liquids. Soft solids that are well-chewed should be eaten and should in fact help to speed up the healing of the throat. Strongly acidic drinks, such as citrus fruit juices may sting and are therefore best avoided during tonsillectomy recovery. Good dental hygiene with regular flossing and tooth brushing should be maintained to prevent infection.

Driving should be avoided for a couple of days post-tonsillectomy, and until any residual effects of the anesthetic have completely disappeared. Some painkillers may cause drowsiness, and if they do, driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided. Full tonsillectomy recovery usually takes ten days to two weeks.


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Post 5

Wow. This article makes it seem like a walk in the park. "Slight earache"?

I am pretty sure the writer of this article never had a tonsillectomy as an adult. I am not staying in because I am avoiding infection. I am staying in because I am in quite some pain and feel weak from not being able to eat. I think one should be more honest about the recovery. As you can read everywhere online, this is not as easy as portrayed here.

Post 4

I'm on day 10 of my tonsillectomy. What a roller coast ride it has been. StreamLouis, you need to keep on your pain medication and fluids.

I was having horrible earaches, and migraines so bad I was seeing nothing but blurs. I couldn't eat or drink. My family called up the doc the day it got very bad. They said it was because I was sleeping too long and not enough fluids were in my body. The nerves that are directly by the ears/throat connection were very swollen and needed water, cooling packs to calm down.

It hurts very badly, but drinking Gatorade at room temp helped the migraines go away. So drink, drink, drink! it's a you-know-what, I know, but you have to do it. It'll help you a lot.

Post 3

Are hot drinks better after a tonsillectomy procedure or cold drinks?

I know about the ice and I've been having mainly cold drinks after the surgery (it's been a week). But yesterday, I had some warm milk and it really soothed my throat and I could actually talk a little bit which I haven't been able to do at all due to the soreness and the pain.

So I'm confused as to which is the best after a tonsillectomy. Is there a risk associated with having hot drinks?

Post 2

@simrin-- I think adult tonsillectomy recovery can be a little more challenging pain wise. And I think the pain tends to get stronger after the first couple of days. I also have a low pain threshold and my doctor switched me to a stronger analgesic during my recovery. You should ask your doctor to do the same.

Apparently, the ear pain happens because the nerves which go through our throat, also go through the ear. Those nerves are affected during the surgery and so when the throat hurts, so does the ears.

Ice packs really do help. Try putting them in the back of your neck and around your ears as well. Your best bet is probably stronger

analgesics though. Your doctor needs to help you get through this phase with as little pain as possible.

My cousin also got this surgery last month and his doctor actually put him on three different kinds of pain-relievers. He was given specific directions as to how much and which times of the day he was supposed to take them. This worked really well for him, he had little pain during recovery.

Post 1

I had my tonsillectomy three days ago and I'm in intense tonsillectomy pain right now. More than my throat, my ears hurt very badly. I know it's a normal symptom after the surgery but I have a low pain threshold and the analgesic I'm using doesn't seem to be helping the pain much.

I called my doctor yesterday and he told me to continue to keep an ice pack on my throat. He said I could also eat small pieces of ice to help with the inflammation and speed up recovery. I have been doing that but still, the ear pain isn't getting better.

Does anyone who has gone through this before have any suggestions for me? Is there anything else I can do to help with the ear pain?

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