Though not quite the right of passage it once was, tonsillectomy is still a relatively common surgical procedure, most often performed on children. That said, the removal of tonsils is most often performed only in specific circumstances when patients have clear presentations of chronic issues.

When your child may need a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy, you will likely have questions about what to expect, both in terms of the procedure and the recovery.

What Are Tonsils and Adenoids?

The tonsils and adenoids are both parts of your immune system. They’re very similar to lymph nodes. The tonsils are located towards the back of your throat. They look like two little lumps on either side of your main throat opening.

Your adenoids are located in the back of your nose, and they perform the same basic function as tonsils. They aren’t normally visible, however. Tonsils and adenoids tend to be larger in children (hence, why it is primarily children who undergo tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy). While less common, adults do also sometimes undergo tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

Tonsils and adenoids can help you fight off infections. However, they may also cause problems when doing so. That’s because when your child becomes ill, their tonsils swell. This swelling can cause two significant problems:

  • The swollen tonsils can cause sleep apnea-like symptoms. This means your child may not be resting well, will become less focused, and more irritable.
  • The tonsils and adenoids themselves might become a source of infection. This can lead to repeated infections over a short period of time.

Removing the tonsils and adenoids can relieve these problems, making it easier for your child to live a happy and healthy life–uninterrupted by a poor night’s sleep and missed school. Removing the tonsils or adenoid does not compromise the immune system or your ability to fight off infections in any way.

When To See An ENT Specialist

What Happens During a Tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is performed under general anesthesia. In most cases, the surgeon will use a specialized surgical tool that uses high-energy heat to remove the unwanted tissue. In many cases, a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy can be performed simultaneously. To remove the adenoids, a catheter and other special devices may be used to remove the adenoids.

Whether performed separately or together, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy can both be performed on an outpatient basis. This means that most patients will return home the same day as their procedure with no hospital stay required. 

Tonsillectomy Recovery Stages

Tonsillectomy has a well-earned reputation as a relatively painful procedure. Most patients will fully recover within a span of 7-14 days. If you have had your tonsils removed, you can expect the pain to be present for the first 7 days or so. Pain may even grow worse over the first few days. 

Adults who undergo tonsillectomy can expect a longer recovery period. For adults, recovery may take up to three weeks and be more uncomfortable.

For most patients, pain and discomfort can be managed by Tylenol. Patients are also encouraged to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Encourage your child to take lots of small sips on cool fluids. Staying hydrated is essential for a strong recovery.
  • Eat lots of popsicles and ice cream. The cool temps will feel soothing on the throat and will help keep your child hydrated.
  • Favor mushy or easy-to-swallow foods. If possible, during the first week of recovery, your child should stick to foods such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, applesauce and so on. 

What to Eat After Tonsillectomy

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Applesauce
  • Ice Cream
  • Popsicles
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Jell-O
  • Bananas

What to Avoid After Tonsillectomy

  • Citrus
  • Hot foods
  • Acidic foods
  • Dairy
  • Carrots
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
Read Our Blog: Ear Infections In Children

Life After Tonsillectomy

Your child will likely miss a week of school during the initial stage of recovery. Depending on how that recovery progresses, your child may miss a second week as well. And your child should avoid vigorous activity for two weeks following surgery. Bleeding after tonsillectomy should be immediately reported to your physician. The most common timeframe for bleeding is post-operation, days 3-7. 

Once recovery is complete, your child will be able to return to school, work, or other normal activities. You may find that they are more energized and focused than ever–as you or your child will be sleeping better, feeling better, and missing less school or work!

Take The Stress Out Of Surgery

At Iowa City ASC, our team takes great care to help you reduce your stress before and after your surgery. By answering your questions thoughtfully and providing a variety of tips to make you feel at ease with your procedure, we hope to put your mind to rest and make your experience as comfortable as possible.

  • When we arrived at Iowa City ASC early in the morning for my knee surgery I was met by a team of people who seemed glad to be at work and glad that I was in their facility. Their overall desire to discuss what they needed from me and to assist in meeting my needs was a welcomed situation. Each person truly impressed me with their professionalism and attitude.  The team was attentive to the situation at hand and I feel that contributed to the overall success of my surgery at Iowa City ASC.  I did not even know that my Knee Surgery was the first of this type performed at the ASC until we were ready to go home a few hours after surgery when it was mentioned in passing. The Iowa City ASC team made it seem as though this was an ongoing procedure or process so they should be applauded. Their experience, professionalism, training and smiles made my surgery at Iowa City ASC a success.

    John Weber