Foods to eat, activity & medication for Tonsillectomy recovery
After you or your child have tonsil removal performed by Dr. Austin, it will be important to follow a few post-surgery tonsillectomy recovery instructions.
Day 1 of Tonsillectomy Recovery
The first day after tonsil removal surgery it is important to stay well hydrated. There is a risk of nausea so I recommend only eating food that is light on the stomach.
- Gatorade: Children under the age of 12 need to drink at least 48 ounces a day of a Gatorade type product. If your child likes apple or grape juice you may also use these types of juices. Avoid anything that may sting or burn like orange juice.
- Popsicles are good during the post-surgery period. They typically help control pain in the throat and they help with hydration. Children tend to think of popsicles as a treat and will often take them when other things to eat are less appealing.
- Jell-O. In the immediate period after surgery Jell-O is easily swallowed and helps with nutrition and hydration during a tonsillectomy recovery.
Tonsil Pain Medication
You, or your child, will experience pain after tonsil surgery. Unfortunately, everything you do that involves your mouth and throat will hurt, this includes swallowing, talking, coughing, sneezing, and burping.
The goal with the use of pain medications is to keep the pain manageable so that maximum hydration is possible. Depending on the age of your child you will use different types of pain medications.
Tonsil Removal Recovery for Ages 4 to 10
Children’s pain receptors are not as developed as adults and fortunately, the degree of pain they feel is less than adults. Also, since children are in a growth phase of their life when they experience surgery their body rapidly converts to a healing phase. Pain medication works better when it is already in the system. It is a mistake to wait to give pain medicine until the pain is unbearable, at this point the medication will not be as effective.
Your child will use Tylenol (acetaminophen) elixir alternating with Motrin (ibuprofen) elixir for pain. The usual recommendation is to alternate each medication every 6 hours. For the first three days use the medication around the clock. Even wake your child up and give them their dosage. When you leave the surgery center or hospital ask when the last time your child received medicine for pain and use that as your starting point. The dose of medication, in milliliters, will be based upon your child’s weight.
Do not use pain medication more frequently than prescribed. Too much pain medicine can be harmful.
Tonsil Removal Recovery for Adults & Children over the age of 10
You may be prescribed a combination of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and a narcotic (hydrocodone or codeine) elixir. The dosage will be based upon weight. There is a maximum amount of this medication that can be prescribed based upon the Tylenol dosage. Do not overuse medicine.
Narcotic medication even hydrocodone or codeine can affect your breathing and be dangerous if overused. The use of this medication will be limited to the first 3 days after surgery.
Pain medicine should be used every 4 hours. Pain medicine is more effective when it is already in your system. Do not wait until you reach a severe pain level to start using your pain medicine, as it will not work as well. After three days, you will transition into liquid dosages of acetaminophen alternating with ibuprofen every 6 hours.
Again, do not overuse your pain medicine as the use of too much pain medicine can harmfully affect your system.
What to Drink for Tonsillectomy Recovery
The most important part of recovery for tonsillectomy recovery is maintaining adequate hydration. Swallowing will hurt. Even drinking water will hurt. A supplement liquid like Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, or a similar product is recommended.
Children from age 4 to 12 should drink at least 48 ounces of liquid a day. Patients over the age of 12 years should drink a minimum of 64 ounces per day. You should urinate at least 3 times per day. If you or your child are not urinating this frequently, you are possibly becoming dehydrated.
Avoid carbonated beverages. Most carbonated beverages have little nutritional value, will sting when swallowed, and may cause nausea in the post-operative period.
Avoid all hot beverages. Caffeine is okay in the postoperative period. Cold tea or cold coffee is permissible for adults. Just remember there is no nutritional value in coffee or tea and a supplemental liquid like Gatorade should be drunk in sufficient volumes.
Nutritional supplement liquids are very useful in the post-operative period, both for hydration and calorie support. Pedialyte is useful for young children. Older children, teenagers, and young adults can drink liquids like Boost, Muscle Milk, and Ensure. They are often more palatable when mixed with skim milk.
Foods to Eat after Tonsillectomy
It is common for people to lose weight after a tonsillectomy. This is not concerning; the most important thing is to hydrate well.
Tonsillectomy Recovery Time: Day 2 to Day 5
Cold, soft foods are key to tonsillectomy recovery. Hot foods or hard foods will be painful to swallow and may cause unwanted bleeding. It is strongly suggested to eat a healthy variety of foods. Don’t eat just ice cream!
It is suggested, especially with children, to try various healthy types of soft, cool foods, which can include: yogurt, pudding, pudding pops, smoothies, milkshakes, sherbet, and ice cream. If you find one food type that you or your child likes the most, then make that the reward meal for dinner time.
Also, mix up the flavors of Gatorade that you drink. Just don’t drink blue Gatorade for 10 days; variety is the spice of life!
Tonsillectomy Recovery Time: Day 5 to Day 10
Some patients and children will be able to eat soft food during this period. Remember, the key is nutrition in a soft form. The temperature may be increased on day five to room temp. I’d suggest any form of a soft egg, small bites of rice or noodles. A portion of rice or noodles that is cooked and allowed to cool with melted butter is very palatable.
Homemade soups with small portions of chicken and noodles are encouraged. Allow soups to cool to room temperature before serving. Avoid store-bought soups because they are very salty and may sting. Powdered mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese are also favorites.
Breakfast cereal in skim milk like corn flakes, Rice Krispies, or special K, is easy to swallow if allowed to get mushy.
Activity after Tonsil Removal
The 10 day period after tonsillectomy is a time for rest. No physical activity should be permitted in young children, adolescents, teenagers or young adults. Indoor activities like computer games, videos, television, and reading are strongly encouraged.
Bed rest is ideal in the first few days with the head elevated to decrease swelling. Avoid going outdoors in the afternoon when the temperature gets hot. All physical activity is strongly discouraged: no exercise, no running, no swimming, no weight training, and no organized team sports.
Patients beyond the age of 30 will take longer to recover because their body is no longer in a growth phase. Young adults should plan on no work or school commitments for a minimum of 2 weeks.
All patients will develop ear pain after a tonsillectomy. This is known as referred pain and does not indicate that you have an ear infection. Antibiotics are not indicated after a tonsillectomy.
What about tonsillectomy scabs?
The throat does not develop a scab during tonsillectomy recovery. The pockets where the tonsils used to be will develop white plaques called eschars. They are mistaken for infections by untrained observers.
Every patient will develop bad breath after a tonsillectomy. That is because the eschars retain moisture and bacteria. This will clear as the throat continues to heal. Mouthwashes are strictly prohibited. They will sting and can cause significant bleeding.
Toothpaste also stings. Tooth brushing is okay, but just use water on the toothbrush for the first 10 days after surgery.
Typically the eschars (white plaques) fall off at about day 7. This can be accompanied by a light amount of bleeding and an increase in the pain for a few days. Also, ear pain may return during this time.
The use of alcohol is absolutely prohibited. It will cross-react with your pain medicine and can produce severe medical complications. It can also precipitate bleeding. Sedatives should not be used during this time for the same reasons as listed above
Bleeding after Tonsillectomy
Some patients will experience bleeding tonsils after a tonsillectomy. The first thing to do is not panic this is common. First, elevate the patients head, and apply ice packs to the neck region under the jawline.
It is okay to gargle with small volumes of ice water. The ice water gargles and ice packs to the neck will help the bleeding points to contract and stop bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop in about 20 minutes it is time to call our office or our on-call phone number for more assistance.
Travel during Tonsillectomy Recovery
All travel outside of the immediate community where your surgery was performed should be completely restricted for 2 weeks after surgery because of the risk of bleeding.
Brownsville and Harlingen tonsillectomy patients should not travel up the Rio Grande Valley during this time. Trips to Corpus Christi or San Antonio are prohibited and ABSOLUTELY no trips should be made to South Padre Island or across the border into Mexico.
Urgent Medical Problems
If you suspect that you or your child are having a significant problem then please call the office or the on-call line for assistance. If you go to a hospital emergently, go to either the Valley Baptist Hospital in Brownsville or Harlingen.
Please do not go to another hospital, as Dr. Austin may not be able to treat you at other facilities.