Tonsil surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis; no overnight stay is required. But that doesn’t mean there is no recovery period.

If the ENT has recommended tonsil surgery for your child you should be prepared for a brief recovery period of a week to a week and a half. Here’s what you can expect during that period.

  • Fever. You may notice a low-grade fever the night of the surgery and for a day or two afterward. Call the ENT if the fever goes over 102ºF.
  • Pain. Almost all children will have mild to severe throat pain after surgery. Some may complain of an earache or pain in the jaw and neck. This is all normal. Before you leave the surgical center, the ENT will prescribe medication in a liquid or suppository form to control the pain.
  • Bleeding. You may see just a few spots of blood from the nose or in the saliva, but you should not see bright, red blood. If there is any bleeding call the ENT right away or take the child to the ER.
  • Liquids. Drinking plenty of liquids is an important part of tonsil surgery recovery. Your child can have liquids such as water or apple juice immediately following surgery. Cold liquids reduce swelling and pain. Don’t be concerned if your child has nausea or vomiting in the first 24 hours. This is a result of the anesthesia and will go away as soon as the anesthesia completely wears off. To reduce nausea, avoid dairy and only offer clear, cold liquids. Do be concerned if you see signs of dehydration such as crying without tears or urination less than two to three times a day. Call the ENT right away if your child is dehydrated.
  • Food. ENTs usually recommend a soft diet during the recovery period for the sake of comfort. The quicker a child eats and chews normally, the quicker the recovery. Some children may be reluctant to eat because of throat pain. If this results in slight weight loss, rest assured the weight will be gained back as soon as the child returns to their regular diet.
  • Breathing A little mouth breathing or snoring is normal in the first couple of weeks after surgery. This is because of swollen tissue in the throat. The swelling will subside and normal breathing and sleeping will return in about 14 days.
  • Activity. It’s OK for your child to go back to school or daycare after they are eating and drinking normally, don’t take medication for pain and sleep through the night. Don’t plan on air travel or being far from a medical facility for the first 14 days after surgery without discussing it in advance with the ENT.
  • Scabs. Just as when your child falls and skins a knee, a scab will form where the tonsils were removed. It’s just a normal part of the healing process. These scabs will be thick and white and will cause your child to have bad breath. Don’t panic. This is completely normal. The scabs will begin to break into little pieces and fall off somewhere between five and 10 days after surgery.

During the recovery period, it is your job to keep your child as healthy and comfortable as possible. Remember, your child models you. When you are calm, they are calm.

If you have questions or concerns during your child’s recovery, don’t hesitate to call the ENT.