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The tonsils are two pads of tissue located on either side of the back of the throat. Tonsils can become enlarged in response to recurrent tonsil infections or strep throat.
They can also become a reservoir for bacteria.
InfectionRecurrent tonsil infections or strep throat despite antibiotic therapy.Upper Airway ObstructionEnlarged tonsils can block the airway and cause difficulty breathing.
Recurrent tonsil infections or strep throat despite antibiotic therapy.
Enlarged tonsils can block the airway and cause difficulty breathing.
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 will form 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 examined 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.
Some children have nausea and vomiting from the general anesthetic. This should stop within a few hours. Please 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. Please call the office nurse if the temperature is over 102oF.
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. Severity of pain may fluctuate during recovery from mild to very severe. Pain may last up to 14 days.
Medicate your child every 5 hours for pain with acetaminophen (Tylenol). If pain is not relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol) alone, ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) may be added. Medicate your child every 8 hours with ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) as needed starting 48 hours after surgery. Prescription pain medication may be prescribed as well. If so, give as directed. If at any time, your child shows symptoms of severe lethargy or other concerning behaviors, please call the office nurse immediately. 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. For children who will not take liquid pain medication, acetaminophen (Tylenol) also comes in a rectal suppository as well as an orally disintegrating tablet.
The most important part of recovery is to drink plenty of fluids. Some children do not want to drink because of pain. Offer and encourage fluids frequently such as juice, soft drinks, popsicles and Jell-O. Milk products such as pudding, yogurt and ice cream may be offered. Some children may have a small amount of liquid come out of the nose when drinking. This should stop a few weeks after surgery. Please call the office nurse if there are concerns that your child is not drinking enough or if there are signs of dehydration (urination less than 2 –3 times per day, crying but no tears). For children who absolutely will not drink and who are showing signs of dehydration, go to Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department at the Main Campus for evaluation. Do not go to Liberty Campus or Urgent Care.
There are no food restrictions after surgery. The sooner eating and chewing are resumed, the quicker the recovery. Many children are reluctant to eat because of pain. As long as your child is drinking well, don’t worry about eating. Many children are not interested in eating for at least a week after surgery. Some children lose weight, which is gained back when a normal diet is resumed.
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