It takes most children 7 – 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.
Snoring and mouth breathing are normal after surgery because of swelling. Normal breathing should resume 10 – 14 days after surgery.
A membrane or scab forms where the tonsils were removed. This looks like two separate scabs or sometimes the whole back of the throat is scabbed. The scabs are thick and white and cause bad breath. This is normal. The scabs usually fall off a little at a time 5 – 10 days after surgery and are swallowed.
If there is any bleeding at all from the mouth or nose go immediately to Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department at the Main Campus to be seen by the ENT doctor on call. Do not go to Liberty Campus or Urgent Care as there are no ENT doctors there. Bleeding usually means the scabs have fallen off too early and this needs immediate attention. Every reasonable attempt will be made to control the bleeding in the Emergency Department. Some children need to be taken to the Operating Room to control the bleeding.
If tonsils are very large, the sound of the voice may be different after surgery.
Nausea and Vomiting:
Some children have nausea and vomiting from the general anesthetic. This should stop within a few hours. Call the office nurse if nausea and vomiting continues for more than 12 – 24 hours.
A low grade fever is normal for a few days after surgery and acetaminophen (Tylenol) should be given every 4 – 6 hours. Call the office nurse if your child's temperature is over 102° F.
- Most children have moderate to severe throat pain after surgery. Many children also complain of earache. The same nerve that goes to the throat goes to the ears, and stimulation of this nerve may feel like an earache.
- Some children also complain of jaw pain and neck pain. This is from positioning in the operating room.
- Many children have trouble eating, drinking and sleeping because of pain.
- The amount of pain your child has may vary during recovery from mild to very severe. Pain may last up to 14 days.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 5 hours for pain. For children who cannot take liquid pain medicine, acetaminophen (Tylenol) also comes in a rectal suppository as well as an orally disintegrating tablet.
- If pain is not relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol) alone, ibuprofen (Advil / Motrin) may be added. You can give your child ibuprofen (Advil / Motrin) every 8 hours.
- Your doctor may also prescribe a steroid (Decadron).
- Prescription pain medicine may be prescribed as well. If so, give as directed.
An ice collar to the neck, warmth to the ear and jaw, chewing gum and a humidifier in your child’s room may also help relieve pain. If at any time, your child shows symptoms of severe drowsiness or other concerning behaviors, call the office nurse immediately.