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Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Recovery Tips: How To Ease the Pain

Feb 09, 2016
What to expect after your child has adenoid and tonsil surgery at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

If your child is noted to have large tonsils and adenoids by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and has a history of snoring, mouth breathing sleeping, restlessly, gasping or pausing in their sleep, then it may be recommended to have a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. This surgery may also be advised if your child has strep throat enough to possibly prevent it in the future. The surgery is the most frequently performed one for children each year in the U.S. It typically lasts about 30-40 minutes and may or may not require an overnight hospitalization for observation.

Here are some things to look out for and steps to take to help your child recover from the surgery:

Sore Throat. It is common for your child to have a temporary sore throat for about 2-3 weeks after getting tonsils and adenoids removed. The pain will be most severe for the first week after surgery and will usually be gone in 2-3 weeks.

Hydrate: the cooler the better. The more cold liquids your child drinks after surgery, the better their throat will feel and the more they will stay hydrated. We recommend milk, juice, water, or Gatorade until their throat is fully healed. Hot liquids can worsen the throat swelling and pain. Dehydration can lead to a trip to the emergency room or hospital. Your surgeon will discuss the signs of dehydration, steps to avoid it, and what to do if it occurs.

What to eat. Give your child soft foods for about 2-3 weeks after surgery or until the throat is fully healed. We recommend soft foods that are easy to swallow such as Jell-O, pudding, ice cream, milk shakes, slushies, noodles, soup, popsicles, mashed potatoes, oatmeal or yogurt. Foods such as chips, pretzels, crackers, and pizza crust will be difficult to swallow and can cause complications, because they may rub the raw area of your child’s throat and cause bleeding.

Pain control. During the first 1-2 weeks, your child may require medication such as Tylenol or Advil to help with pain, help them swallow, and allow them to eat and drink enough to stay hydrated. Sometimes, they may need additional pain relief with a combination pain medication such as liquid Lortab that combines Tylenol with a narcotic pain medicine. Speak with your child’s surgeon about their recommendations for pain control.

Returning the school. Your child should be able to safely return to school after 1-2 weeks. However, if your child is requiring a lot of pain medication, they may not be able to go back to school for about 2 weeks. Get direction from your surgeon about when to send your child back to school. Likely, your surgeon will suggest your child not attend gym class until fully healed and recovered.

Activity. We recommend no strenuous exercise or activity – running, jumping, swimming or playing sports – until your child’s throat is fully healed. Anything that increases your child’s heart rate or blood pressure can increase the risk of bleeding. If this occurs, it may require another surgery to stop the bleeding. If your child has any bleeding from the mouth, nose or throat, go to a local emergency room for evaluation.

Benefits. After your child has recovered from getting their tonsils and adenoids removed, hopefully their snoring will be much improved and possibly resolved. Snoring immediately after surgery may be the same, or could be worse, until your child’s throat swelling decreases and resolves. Children who get their tonsils and adenoids removed for recurrent strep throats usually don’t get strep throat as much, and possibly never again. In all cases, if your child is having problems with snoring, mouth breathing, sleeping poorly, gasping or pausing in sleep, or having recurrent strep throats, it may be best to have your child see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist at Nationwide Children’s who can fully evaluate and recommend treatment options.

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James Ruda
James Ruda, MD
Ear, Nose and Throat Services (Otolaryngology)

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.