Caring for Your Child after a Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy
What Is a Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy?
This is a surgery to remove lymph tissue that lies on either side of the back of the throat and behind the nose.
What to Expect
After you go home you may expect:
- Sore throat, especially when swallowing. This may last 7-10 days.
- Ear, jaw, and neck pain. It may not start until 3-4 days after surgery. This may last for 7-10 days.
- Blood tinged mucus. This is normal on the day of surgery. Try to avoid excess clearing of the throat.
- Your child may have nausea and vomiting. Rectal suppositories may be given to help this at home.
- Expect low-grade fever possibly up to 102° F when taken by mouth or 101° under the arm. It may last 7 days.
- A yellow-grey membrane where the tonsils were removed. It will slowly go away as the area heals, often in 3-4 weeks.
- Restless, disturbed sleep or nightmares may occur for a couple of weeks.
- Bad breath. Your child’s breath may be bad smelling for many days while the throat is healing. Drinking plenty of liquids helps decrease the odor.
- An antibiotic may be given to your child. If your child is having nausea, it is okay to start it the day after surgery.
- Your child may still snore and have a nasal voice during this healing time. If it lasts longer than a month, please tell your doctor.
Your doctor will suggest medicine for sore throat and ear pain. Be sure to focus on pain control so that your child can drink plenty of fluids.
- If a prescription is given, take as directed. Give it as often as allowed for the first 24-48 hours.
- If your doctor suggests giving acetaminophen (Tylenol®), your child may feel better if you give it every 4 hours around the clock for the first 24-48 hours. Your doctor may prescribe a dose which can be given every 3 hours. You will be told the dose on the day of surgery.
- Try to time the pain medicine so that your child takes it about 1 hour before meals. This will help to decrease pain when swallowing.
- An ice pack may help. You may want to put a small bag of frozen corn or peas in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel. Place it on the throat for 20 minutes at a time.
- Frequent swallowing may decrease throat swelling and ease the sore throat. Chewing gum, if your child is old enough, may help.
- A humidifier or vaporizer may ease throat soreness. Try this if it is cold enough outside to have the furnace running since the air will be drier.
Limit your child’s activity for one (1) week.
- Your child should avoid strenuous exercise and activity, swimming, or lifting more than 25 lbs.
- Be sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Plan for your child to be out of school or daycare for at least 1 week.
Your child may lose weight from eating less than normal. This is ok as long as she is drinking plenty of fluids.
Follow the “tonsillectomy diet” for one (1) week. This means:
- Begin with clear liquids such as: water, broth, apple juice, popsicles, Jell-o®, Hi-C®, and Kool-Aid®. Cold or lukewarm liquids may feel better at first but any temperature your child prefers is fine. Frequent small sips are better than quickly drinking a large amount of fluid and then not drinking for the next few hours.
- Other foods that your child may like are pudding, ice cream, milkshakes, and cream soup.
- Your child may eat soft foods as soon as he feels able to. Soft foods include: scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cooked cereal, yogurt, and apple sauce.
- Some children eat solid foods earlier than others. Your child will eat solid floods when he is able to swallow better. It is normal if your child does not want to eat solid foods the first week. It is vital that he drink plenty of liquids. Acidic or spicy foods (orange or grapefruit juice, tomatoes) may make your child’s throat more sore, but won’t do him any harm.
- Do not eat foods that are rough and crunchy for an entire week. They may scratch your child’s throat and cause bleeding. This includes:
- potato chips, other chips
- cold cereal
Your child will not have a follow-up clinic visit unless there is a problem. You may call at any time with questions or concerns.
When to Call the Doctor or Clinic Nurse
Call one of the phone numbers below if your child has:
- Any bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting that do not go away.
- A fever over 102°F (when taken by mouth) or over 101° F (when taken under the arm). Expect a low-grade fever for 7 days, even when taking medicine.
- Pain not controlled with medicine.
- A feeling that your child is not recovering as she should. It takes about 7-10 days before she will start to feel better.
- Dehydration. Your child should be urinating at least twice in 24 hours.
- Pediatric Otolaryngology (ENT) Clinic: Call (608) 265-7760, weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- After clinic hours and weekends: Call (608) 262-0486. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the ENT doctor on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
- If outside the Madison area, call toll free 1-800-323-8942.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 11/01/2013
Copyright © 10/31/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5746
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