The following instructions will help you to know what to expect in the days following surgery. Do not hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns.

Activities

  • After surgery your child should rest at home for several days. Light activities may be resumed when your child feels up to it. Strenuous physical activity is discouraged for 2 weeks. This includes gym class, swimming, and recess. Your child may return to school when comfortable and no longer taking prescription pain medication. It is ok to brush your child’s teeth. Please do not travel away from the Cleveland area for 2 weeks following surgery. It takes most children 7 to 10 days to recover from a tonsillectomy. Some children feel better in just a few days and some children take as many as 14 days to recover.

Diet

  • The most important part of recovery is to drink plenty of fluids. The more your child drinks, the sooner the pain will subside. Water, juices, and sports drinks are excellent sources of liquid. Soft foods such as ice cream, sherbet, yogurt, pudding, apple sauce, popsicles, and jello should also be encouraged. Other soft, easily chewed foods are also excellent. Hot or spicy foods, acidic foods, or foods that are hard or crunchy may cause discomfort. There are no food restrictions. You can gradually advance your child’s diet as tolerated. As long as your child is drinking plenty of fluids, do not worry about eating. Many children are not interested in eating for several days after surgery. Some children lose weight, which is gained back when a normal diet is resumed.

Pain

  • Most children have moderate to severe throat pain after surgery. Throat pain is greater the first few days following surgery and may last up to 14 days.
  • Ear pain, especially with swallowing, is also a common occurrence. It is not an ear infection, but due to referred pain from the surgery.
  • Occasionally, a stiff neck and jaw pain may also occur. Please call if it becomes excessively painful or if your child is unable to move his/her neck.
  • Your child may have trouble eating, drinking, or sleeping because of pain. The level of pain may change during recovery. Pain may be worse in the morning

Pain Control

  • Alternate the use of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) every 3 hours to control your child’s pain. Give pain medication on a regular schedule for the first 3-4 days after surgery. Then, continue pain medication as needed if your child continues to have pain.
  • Older children may receive a prescription for a stronger pain medication. Please use this medication if acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not controlling your child’s pain.
  • Your physician may prescribe dexamethasone, to use for pain not well controlled with other meds, typically used on day 3, 4 or 5 after surgery.
  • Honey can be used if you child is over 1 year old and not allergic to honey. 1 tsp 3 times per day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids after surgery. Staying hydrated can help lessen pain.
  • Ice Collar: An ice collar can also be helpful for postoperative sore throat. To make an ice collar, place ice cubes and water in a large Zip-Lock bag and wrap it in a towel. Gently lay the ice pack of the front of the neck.
  • Chewing gum speeds comfortable eating by reducing spasms after surgery and can be started any time after surgery. When giving gum, make sure the child is fully awake and observed. Do not give gum if your child has never chewed gum before.
  • Rectal acetaminophen suppositories and orally disintegrating tablets are options for children refusing pain medication orally. Available over-the-counter.

Fever

  • A low-grade fever (101 degrees or less) following surgery may occur and should be treated with acetaminophen. Follow the directions on the bottle. If the fever persists (more than 2 days) or is greater than 102 degrees, call our office.

Bad Breath

  • Bad breath can be expected for approximately 1 week following surgery.

Bleeding

  • Postoperative bleeding is unusual, but serious. Bleeding may occur 5 to 14 days after surgery; however it may occur up to 1 month. Most bleeding is minor and you may only see a small amount of blood on the tongue. If blood is noticed, watch for spitting, coughing, or vomiting of blood. If noticed go directly to the emergency department (CC main campus). For significant bleeding call 911.

Breathing

  • Snoring and mouth breathing are normal after surgery because of swelling. Normal breathing should resume 10-14 days after surgery.

Scabs

  • A white/grey scab will form where the tonsils were removed. The scabs usually fall off or dissolve away on their own 5 to 10 days after surgery.

Speech

  • If tonsils are very large, the sound of the voice may be different after surgery.

Follow-up

  • Please call the office to schedule an appointment so that your child can be seen approximately 4 weeks after surgery. For some patients, virtual follow-ups can be arranged. Please inquire.

Recommended Dosage Acetaminophen

Recommended Dosage Ibuprofen

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/15/2018.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy