If your child is having a tonsillectomy, discuss what to expect during and after the surgery. Allow your child to express feelings. Tell your child that he or she will have a sore throat for a few days after the surgery. Reassure your child that medications will make him or her comfortable. Tell your child that the surgery will improve their health, such as improving breathing or reducing infections.

Questions to ask your doctor

Surgery is challenging for both children and parents, and you probably have a lot of questions. It is common to forget some questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before surgery and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need a tonsillectomy? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and everyday activities?
  • What kind of diet can I eat after surgery?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • What medications will I need before and after the surgery? How should I take my usual medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after the tonsillectomy?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after tonsillectomy as smooth as possible. 

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. You may stay for several hours so your care team can watch for bleeding and other problems. You will most likely go home the same day. 

Recovery time varies depending on the procedure, type of anesthesia, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery takes one to two weeks.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Patients typically experience a sore throat that goes away gradually over several days. You may also have soreness in your ears, neck or jaw. 

Your doctor will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes because it may be a sign of a complication.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a tonsillectomy. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you or your child has:

  • Bleeding, spitting blood, vomiting blood, or blood coming from the nose
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, or palpitations
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery. It is not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate, pass gas, or have a bowel movement
  • Increase in swallowing. This could mean you or your child is bleeding and swallowing blood.
  • Pain that is not controlled by pain medication or an increase in difficulty swallowing or sore throat
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of the mouth or nose

How might tonsillectomy affect my everyday life?

A tonsillectomy should cure you condition or significantly reduce symptoms so you can lead an active, normal life. Tonsillectomy should help you breathe and sleep better, swallow easier, have fewer throat infections and be more active and engaged with activities and school or work.