Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Tips For Surviving Adult Tonsillectomy

I recently chronicled my experience having my tonsils out at age 41. Here's a handy guide for the rest of you. If you are an adult planning your own or your child's tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, these are the best tips I found and used:
Source: http://jessreyn90.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/sore-throat-acid-reflux.jpg


  1. Coblation: Find a doctor that uses this method or another equally promising, newer technique. 
  2. Ice packs: starting as soon as you get home, hold ice packs to your neck for 20 minutes on and then 10-20 off, all day and night, for at least the first 2 days (I ended up doing it every day for two weeks at least some of the time. It is VERY helpful with pain and with swelling and bleeding.)
  3. Help: For the first two or three days at least, you will need someone to fill your ice water and ice packs, and to fetch food/drinks for you. The best thing you can do is get a family member to help you. Though it is manageable alone, if your meds are making you dizzy and wobbly, the less you have to do on your own, the better. It would be nice if you have some help clear through the first 2 weeks, if possible.
  4. Ice water: begin by chewing (pebble) ice and sipping ice water and other cold drinks, and don't stop! Keep asking for it to be refilled and keep drinking. Even if it hurts, force yourself to drink. Cold ice water is especially soothing because it numbs the pain.
  5. Pain meds: take your prescription regularly and don't miss a dose. I set a timer on my iPad, which woke me up throughout the night, and I kept a notebook log of what I took and when. My prescription was for Norco (like Percocet) which was Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen. With the okay of my doctor, I began alternating it with 800 mg. of Ibuprofen, which was even more effective. I stayed on them (including a small refill) until day 12, and then I switched to Tylenol alternated with Ibuprofen. Whatever works!
  6. Buy a stool softener! If you end up not needing it, good for you. Alternative to something from the pharmacy would be to add fiber to your drinks (Metamucil, etc.). Trust me, you'll be glad you got it.
  7. Gum: When you aren't eating or sleeping, chewing gum serves two purposes- it keeps the jaw from tightening up (I don't know about you, but when I swallow and it's painful, I clench my teeth tightly) and generates saliva, which supposedly can speed healing of mouth sores.
  8. Rinse with warm salt water. I waited until the second day, just to be sure I wasn't going to irritate the tender tissues back there, but then I started using 1/4 cup warm water and 1/8 tsp. salt and gargling and spitting 3-4 times a day. Supposed to help with healing.
  9. Keep a humidifier running at all times!
  10. Sleep in a recliner, if you can, or otherwise propped up. Gravity can make swelling worse, so laying flat sucks when you're sore.
  11. Eat soft foods as directed by your doctor. I will list my favorite suggestions below. You will be weak and you will need calories-- eat when you're hungry. Even if it's painful, it will be worth it.
  12. Try not to talk during the first two weeks. At least, talk as little as necessary. Let your throat rest.
  13. REST: No matter how great you feel on days 2, 3, or 4, stay down, relax and take it very easy. If you don't have someone to help out, your children can survive on cold cereal and toast for a couple of days-- don't push yourself to do housework or cook meals. Don't go back to work until you absolutely must-- try to take off at least 2 weeks (preferably 3) of work for recuperation. I was lucky that I work for a school and have my summers off, so I was able to rest as long as my body required.
    • My doctor recommended that I get up the second and third day and take a short walk-- to "open up my lungs" and speed up my body's healing process. My meds and lack of sleep made me feel too weak, however, so I wasn't able to do this right away, but if you can, it makes sense that a short walk around the yard might be good for you. Listen to your body and do what it needs.

Foods:
  • applesauce
  • yogurt
  • jello
  • sorbet or sherbet
  • scrambled eggs
  • oatmeal (I ate lots of oatmeal)
  • soups (drink warm, not hot)
  • slurpees/slushees/shaved ice, etc.
  • orange ice cream bars
  • smoothies
  • popsicles
  • Ensure drinks are helpful to get some calories-- I couldn't do chocolate (hurt too much) but the vanilla ones are good, too.
  • milkshakes (unless they generate mucus...)
  • pancakes or soft waffles
  • cheesecake
  • mashed potatoes
  • non-tomato pastas (I got some frozen entrees of fettucine alfredo; you could also eat mac & cheese, etc.)
  • I actually ate Ritz crackers, I just chewed them until they were mushy enough to swallow.
  • super soft breads (in the second week, I ate muffins, mini donuts, and a tuna sandwich without crusts)
Good luck!!

43 comments:

Cathy Kennedy said...

Thanks for the tips. My adult daughter is set to have her tonsils removed later this week. I sent her the link to your tips. Maybe, this will help to arm her for the rough ride ahead.

Steph said...

Good luck to her! I hope she bounces back and heals well. :)

Cory H said...

I'ma 38 year old man and I underwent a Tonsillectomy 6 days ago. This has been a experience I will never forget. I have found that a tonsillectomy is absolutely no joke.

Between little rest, combined with nearly no caloric intake, and the constant pain it can bring a middle aged healthy guy to his knees in a big hurry.

As each day passes I find myself praying that the next day will not be as bad as the last one was.

I wanted to thank you for writing about your tonsillectomy experience it has been a very helpful tool, and your advise is spot on and most welcomed.

Especially the part about stool softeners, which I wish I would have started taking sooner in hindsight.

Besides the obvious pain, lack of sleep had been my biggest enemy. I find myself sleeping very minimally.

I will take a round of pain medication, then after an hour or so I find that I'm able to pass out. However I will only sleep 1 to 2 hours then I wake in pain and start
this process all over again. It has been going on for the last 6 days straight, and I feel I'm starting to loose my mind. Hopefully I'm past the half way point and I will find light at the end of this tunnel.

Steph said...

Hang in there, Cory, I promise you'll feel better in a few days. It's like a living nightmare for a while, but then the sun comes out and you wake up without agony. :) Good luck!

bnolan84 said...

I just had mine out on the 24th I will say your blog has given me a glimmer of hope that this will get better. Yesterday was bad today was 100% worse on a scale of one to 10 when I swallowed I hit a 15 and no amount of ice or medicine helped. The dr prescribed steroids 6 today descending to one they seem to have helped with the swelling but still hurt to swallow. Can't wait to be done!!!

Steph said...

Oh, I'm so sorry it's that bad for you!! I didn't have to get steroids, but it was still AGONY! I hope you bounce back quickly once the worst is over-- hang in there! Good luck!!

Douglas Mann said...

I am an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, and have done thousands of tonsillectomies in my 30plus years of practice. NO question that it's very tough on adults! Your post is very helpful!
I have been searching for ways to make the experience easier, and come up with a spray bottle that I call the Tonsil Fire Extinguisher . It is available on line to your physicians, who can then fill it for you with local anesthetic. A couple of sprays directed at each tonsil (full disclosure...tastes horrible) will turn off the pain for 20 minutes so you can eat, drink, or get back to sleep. Healing is faster in a moist environment, so anything that helps you drink is a big plus.
Your doctor can order this product at www.tonsil-fire-extinguisher.com

Mike Goynes said...

I'm a 34yr male on day 6. I wanted to get this tip out to the world as soon as possible. IF you decided to try to make smoothies, be VERY careful what fruits you add. I've been juicing apple, kale, celery, cucumber, and other greens to keep up the fiber while I go through this... awesome... experience. Yesterday I thought it sounded great to add a peach to the mix. Excruciating pain, folks. I knew citrus in general was a bad idea, but I thought if the apple doesn't have a bad impact, 1 little peach would be fine.

Steph said...

Oh, Mike, good luck! I hope you feel better soon.

Laura said...

I'm so glad to have found all of your posts on your tonsillectomy. My son (almost 7 years old) just had his done and I'm scheduled to get mine done soon, as well as the adenoids and a 'functional rhinoplasty'. Some of your tips will help with my son, and I'm so glad to have found them BEFORE I get mine done. Thanks!

Steph said...

You're so welcome-- good luck!!

Jordan said...

Going on day six with a tonsillectomy at age 21. This is awful. Barely can drink and eatting is totally out of the question. Found out that oxycodone doesn't work for my body and ended up getting a stronger pain med, dilaudid. Does anyone have a day where it starts to look up? I heard after day seven, you're on the up and out but I feel like this is never gonna end!

Steph said...

Oh, Jordan, I'm so sorry- hang in there!! If it helps, this is my day-to-day journal of how it went for me: http://curioussoup.blogspot.com/2014/07/adult-tonsillectomy-my-day-by-day.html

MyLifeAsShan said...

I'm 18 and on day 6 and I feel little to NO pain , I've been eating grilled cheese and chicken nuggets , I have to eat slowly and chase everything with a cold beverage but I feel like I'm healing pretty quickly

Steph said...

That's wonderful! Be grateful you did it now and not 25 years from now. ;)

Miss C Reef said...

I had mine taken out at 35, I wish I had this then! It hurt like hell!

Maggie Rhea said...

I am on day 5-6 right now of tonsillectomy recovery and I'm 22. This is by far the worst pain I have EVER felt in my life, and I can usually tolerate pain pretty well. I had a trip to the ER yesterday because I nearly passed out from the pain. Oxycodone doesn't do much for me either, so I got Dilaudid. Well, that helped IV in the hospital but the pills aren't doing much. I am also alternating with 800mg Motrin which has helped me more than any of the other meds. Thankfully I can actually drink water and have been staying hydrated, but food is a joke. All I have eaten is blended ice (which is amazing), Popsicles, and WONTON SOUP cooled down. It had never crossed my mind but my family ordered my favorite Chinese food on day 2 and got me wonton soup. Honestly, it's the only warm thing that doesn't hurt at all. Small bites, break up the noodles into tiny pieces, and don't attempt to eat the meat. It has saved me from starving I really think. I tried applesauce, yogurt, ice cream-all hurt too much. Anything with dairy really left a weird "film" of phlegm on the back of my throat and I nearly choked. I tried almond milk and coconut milk ice cream, those didn't help much either. Mashed potatoes even blended-made me bleed on thanksgiving and I only had like 5 bites. Sleeping with a humidifier has helped moisten the air some. I wake up in tears every morning- the mornings are by far the worst. Last night I set an alarm for nearly every 2-3 hours to take meds and it's the first morning I haven't woken up crying in excruciating pain. I don't mean to scare anyone who is having this done, but really really brace yourself. You will cry, you will need help, you will lose motivation and feel like you will pass out from the pain. Don't be ashamed to ask for help or go to the ER if you seriously need a break from the pain. No meds will truly eliminate the pain so don't expect that. The meds will alleviate some of the pain, and take the meds about an hour before next dosage is due (I am in nursing school and it is okay to do so, don't take more than prescribed but by the time they kick in you will be way past your pain threshold.) don't wait until the pain is so bad to take the meds or you will lose your mind. LAXATIVES ON DAY 1- I haven't gone to the bathroom since the surgery (6 days!) and that is very opposite of my usual habits. Start them early or you will be incredibly constipated! For me, I can only sleep on my side with more pillows than usual. I haven't been able to have any smoothies either, not sure how other people have been able to. Hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We can all somehow do this! Good luck!

Steph said...

Thank you for your tips and best of luck to you!! Hang in there. Eventually it will be over.

mae said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I'm having my surgery on Wednesday of next week. So, 6 days of anxiety left! And then 15 of pain! Woo hoo! I'm dreading the pain, but very grateful to finally be parting ways with my tonsils. I'm 34 and this surgery is long overdue! I chose a surgeon who does coblation, so I'm hoping the first few days will be easier. Thank you for your detailed log. It is comforting. Now, off to find pebble ice...

Steph said...

Good luck, Mae!! I hope you heal up quickly and never have to deal with throat issues again!

Whitney said...

Thank you for all this information. I'm 34 and having the surgery this coming Friday. I am extremely anxious but I guess you just have to take it day by day. I haven't heard of the coblation technique. I'll have to ask my doctor in the pre-op appointment. Thanks again!

Jessica said...

I am 23 I just my tonsils out. The first three days after were fine. On day three I really felt like things were looking up, I cut back on pain meds and was eating more than just soup! Then the 3rd night when I went to bed my throat started gushing blood so bad I couldn't breath! My dad took me into the ER and they had to see surgery right away, and now omg it's terrible! My neck is stiff as all hell, my ears hurt, no mater how much water I consume my throat is just so dry! Also, now I can't take ibuprofen and I think that is why my pain so bad! My pain pills seem to be no longer working no matter how scheduled I take them! I have lost 6 pounds in four days and am not sleeping for more than an hour or two at a time. It's rough and better be worth it in the end!!

Steph said...

Ouch! I'm so sorry, Jessica!! I hope things heal up quickly for you.

Rennie Keith said...

Thank you for your post! I got mine out three days ago (age29) and needed some encouragement that it does get better! So far pain meds and ice have controlled the pain but there are times where it's so swollen I feel like my airway is getting cut off, definitely no laying flat for me! I wasn't told anything about the salt water swish and spit, will have to add it to my day. Am scheduled to work post on day 8 but maybe I will have to call in sick after reading your time line. Thanks again for posting.

Steph said...

Thanks for your comments, Rennie-- I hope you heal up faster than I did and are able to get back to work. If not, listen to your body! :)

saga said...

Thanks for your tips. I am getting my tonsils out in three days and I am so nervous. I hope to follow every advice you gave for a quicker recovery

Jennifer Legner said...

Hey Guys! My name is Jennifer. I am 29 years old. I will be getting my tonsils removed a week from today. I am so scared and nervous. I hear more bad than good things. Thank you so much for posting this. I will definantly take all of this advice.

Steph said...

Best of luck to you, Jennifer! I hope things go well.

y.bel said...

Hey Thanks for the post. Nice to see some other people having similar experiences. I'm 26. Finally got my tonsils out, doctor said he wasnt sure how I was breathing or eating because they had gotten so huge. I was resisting this surgery for a long time. I wish I had thought to put alarms on in the middle of the night. On day 3 I woke up with such terrible burning in my throat I wanted to cry. Now I've been upping the dosage at night and naturally have been waking up in the middle of the night so I keep drinking water. This morning was not too bad. Day 4. I have found that applesauce was the first thing I could eat other than Ice/water. I tried moms chicken broth and couldn't understand why it was hurting me so much, now I think it may have been the sodium. Also had small success with a small piece of cheese, and last night for the first time I had a few small pieces of overcooked pasta, no sauce. Did you find yourself dreaming of your first meal again? I can't wait until I can have real food, although any time I even consider anything other than ice it freaks me out. Glad to hear that it gets better.

Steph said...

Thank you for sharing! Yes, I totally dreamed about onion rings and burgers while I was starving in recovery. Hang in there. Keep up the ice and water and you will heal up and eat again. :) Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Ouch guys im at day 7 ...i feel so bad im 15 and my mouth keeps getting ths weird stuff...please help me with my eating and drinking....im drinking alot of water...and all i eat is ice cream...everything else hurts! Do u guys know if i can eat yogurt?....

Steph said...

Hey, Anonymous, I'm sorry you're in so much pain! If you're getting a mouth full of goo, maybe it's because all you're eating is dairy? I would try soups and broths, buttered toast (take it slowly), soft breads like muffins, etc. Do a warm salt water gurgle and rinse, too, at least once a day. It sounds like it will hurt, but it doesn't.

Good luck!! Hang in there!

Amber Backos said...

Cannot tell you how happy I am that I've found this post and that I'm not the only one who's experiencing such excruciating pain. I'm 17 AND I know it's a lot worse for older people but I can tell you otherwise ��
I can't seem to swallow, let alone drink water! I haven't eaten so little ever in my life ��
Day 1-3 were somewhat okay but I don't think I can express the pain I've had since day 4. [I'm currently on day 7] AND THINGS DO NOT LOOK LIKE THEY ARE GOING TO GET ANY BETTER, but your post has given me an emended amount of hope, so thank you very much. Your tips are also so helpful!

Steph said...

Hey, pain is pain, no matter your age!! You hang in there. If you can't drink water, suck on ice-- constantly. You need to make sure it doesn't dry out back there, or it will just be worse. I promise it will get better-- good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Hi guys. I am 26 years old and had my tonsils removed 4 days ago. My experience so far is ok, except this morning (day 4) that I really thought I was going to go completely crazy from the pain. I took ibuprofen and it calmed down a little. However, swallowing is still a nightmare. When the ibuprofen works, I am able to force myself to eat. I eat mash patatos and chicken meat, but blended in a blender. Also clear soups and sometimes milk with bisquites. And I drink cold unsweatened tea from St. John's worth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypericum_perforatum ) which helps me wash and moisturize the throat at all times.
As I realized by far, nothing can stop the pain as this is an open wound in the mouth that needs to heal itself.
However, if I don't force myself to swallow and eat I can pass out from weakness, not just lose weight.
So I am now convincing myself that the pain will decrease after day 6 and looking forward to it.
Best of luck to all who will be undergoing this procedure!

Steph said...

Oh, you poor thing!! Please please keep hydrated! If you don't, you will be in worse pain and maybe end up hospitalized. I sure hope everything heals up quickly and you get back on your feet. I don't know how people did this in the time before TV and the internet!! It's madness.

keith berger said...

I am day 7 and 45. I would say it has been bad but not brutal. My doctor had me do oxicodone every 4 hours and either Tylenol or ibuprofen every four hours. Take one at noon, the next at 2 and keep rotating so that when one is coming down the other is kicking in. I did a spreadsheet which worked great and just set the iPhone alarm for every 2 hours. This helped manage pain. As far as food no dairy, too much mucas, even if painful try to hack it out. Popsicles, jello, Mac cheese, ramen all help. There will be lots of farting, if you take a laxative make sure you are need a toilet with all the liquids you are consuming.

Anonymous said...

Ok....well.

I'm an 18 year old female and I just had my tonsils removed via the burning method. I'm on day 5 if you don't coundt the day of surgery. A tip that I can give you. No matter how good you feel DO NOT leave your house for the first couple of days. The day after surgery I felt really good and I tiff I could get out of the house for a minute. Well I passed out, hit my head on the cement and had to go to the ER. On top of the tonsillectomy I now have a bad concussion which hurts like hell. They also thought I had fractured a vertebrae in my neck after taking X-Rays but the CT scan didn't show anything. I just switched from my pain meds to Tylenol today and that seems to be working good. Another warning...you might be able to swallow things but it probably won't taste good. For example, I can eat a nutty bar just fine, but I have to do after a couple bites nectar the taste will make me want to puke. The smell that will come from the scabs on your throat is one of the most disgusting smells (and tastes) I've ever had to deal with.

Steph said...

Oh my gosh! You poor thing!!! I totally agree-- don't leave the house. Stay down and rest rest rest! I hope you recover quickly from both ordeals!

Pamela said...

Came across your blog entry, I'm 41 and on day 6 post op. Had my tonsils removed last Friday. Night before last had my first 6 hrs sleep felt reasonably good yesterday thought I'd turned the corner.... BIG MISTAKE, had horrendous night last night and for the first time since surgery spent today in bed mostly asleep.
Feel so week and sore. Been surviving on scrambled eggs with cheese and sliced soft bread. Can't wait to feel normal again!

Steph said...

Pamela, hang on. I promise it gets better. I'm sorry you feel so weak. It's a monster of a recovery!

Anonymous said...

I'm 41 year old female and going to get my tonsils out in two weeks. I am super nervous! I am so tired of the gross tonsil stones, mucous, and horrible taste in my mouth, so I'm going through with it.

Steph said...

Best wishes, 41, I hope all goes as smoothly as possible!!