How to recover from a tonsillectomy

How to recover from a tonsillectomy

A tonsillectomy refers to the surgical removal of the tonsils. This procedure may be recommended for several reasons, for example, if you suffer from recurrent bouts of tonsillitis or sore throats that interfere with your everyday life. This surgery may also be necessary if you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea or cancer that’s spread from your head or neck.

For adults, a tonsillectomy is often performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning no overnight stay in hospital. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take extra care after your surgery[1]. In this blog post, we give you information on what you can expect after a tonsillectomy and tips on how to aid your recovery.

How to recover from a tonsillectomy quickly

Despite being a routine procedure, it can take a while to recover from a tonsillectomy. In total, it can take around two weeks before you’re able to resume your normal activities. As a rule, you should expect to be out of work, school or university for between 10 and 14 days.

To give yourself the best chance of making a full and fast recovery, you should follow these simple tips[1]:

  • Rest

You are likely to feel tired after your surgery. To help you to recover from the general anaesthetic, you should get plenty of rest on the day you go home from the hospital and on the following day. 

  • Avoid exercise for two weeks

You should avoid going to the gym or doing other exercise for two weeks after your tonsillectomy. This will help you to keep your blood pressure down and avoid the risk of bleeding. After two weeks, if you feel well enough, you can gradually reintroduce exercise – starting with gentle activity. 

  • Soothe your throat

You should take painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, as required to soothe your throat pain. You may also be prescribed painkillers like codeine and tramadol to help to ease your discomfort. You should take these as instructed by your doctor. Patients also report getting relief from using throat sprays, lozenges and chewing gum.

  • Drink plenty of fluids

Although it may feel painful to swallow after a tonsillectomy, it’s important to drink plenty of cool fluids, such as water, cordial and fruit juices that aren’t acidic (like apple juice). Sucking on ice cubes can also help you to stay hydrated. If you don’t take in enough fluid, you can get dehydrated in as little as 48 hours. 

  • Maintain good oral hygiene

Brushing your teeth may not feel comfortable at first but it’s important that you keep your mouth clean. Brushing regularly and using mouthwash will help your wounds heal faster and prevent infection.

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol

Drinking alcohol and smoking are strictly prohibited for at least two weeks after surgery to give your throat time to heal.

  • Stay indoors

For the first week after your surgery, it’s a good idea to stay at home. You should avoid crowded places and people with coughs and colds to reduce the risk of infection. You should also avoid smoky or dusty environments to prevent throat irritation. 

  • Resume a normal diet

You should start eating a normal diet the day after your surgery. While you may not necessarily feel like eating, chewing and swallowing can reduce throat spasms, increase the salivary flow and get rid of debris from the tonsil beds. Eating a balanced diet will help your wound to heal and help you to avoid infection. In fact, you won’t be discharged from the hospital unless you have resumed eating.

What to eat after a tonsillectomy

You should try to get back to eating a normal, healthy diet as soon as possible after surgery[1]. However, if you’re finding eating painful, it may help to have more soft and cool foods than you normally would. For example, you might be able to tolerate:

  • Cool soup
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pasta
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Smoothies
  • Pureed fruit
  • Low-fat ice cream and ice lollies
  • Jelly

You should avoid the following foods during while you recover:

  • Acidic drinks, such as orange juice and grapefruit juice
  • Hot and spicy foods such as curries and chillies
  • Rough textured or crunchy foods such as raw vegetables or crisps
  • High fat dairy products (as they can trigger the production of mucus which can make swallowing difficult)

There’s no doubt that it can take time to fully recover from a tonsillectomy but if you follow tips like these you should be able to resume your normal activities and get back to living life to the full sooner rather than later.