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The tonsils are lymph tissues found in the back of the throat. If your child has frequent throat infections or snoring or breathing problems, the tonsils may need to be taken out. This surgery is called a tonsillectomy. It may be done alone or with another surgery (adenoidectomy, ear tube insertion or sinus surgery).

Having a Tonsillectomy:

  • A tonsillectomy is done in the operating room. Your child will receive anesthesia to keep him asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery usually takes less than an hour.
  • Most children will spend several hours in the hospital after surgery. Some will spend the night, depending on their age and medical history. Your child’s doctor will discuss this with you.
  • Your child should not have aspirin for two weeks before or after the surgery.

What to expect after Surgery:

  • Your child will have an IV. We may give your child steroids through his IV line to reduce swelling in the throat. Some children may also receive IV antibiotics.
  • Your child will be sleepy.
  • There may be small amounts of bloody drainage from your child’s nose or mouth for as long as one week after surgery. This is normal.
  • Your child will have a sore throat. If your child complains of pain, medicine can be given. Your child’s nurse may put a bag filled with ice (called an ice collar) on your child’s neck to help reduce the pain.
  • Some children refuse to drink after surgery. Your child will be more willing to drink if pain medicine is given as ordered (usually every 4 hours). It is important for your child to drink slowly at first. When your child can drink without vomiting, ice cream or Jell-O will be given. A soft or regular diet can be eaten when comfortable for your child.
  • If you child is nauseated, his/her nurse can give him/her some medicine. He/she may have some vomiting of blood that was swallowed during surgery.
  • Snoring may not stop until the swelling from surgery is gone. There may be a nasal quality to your child’s voice. This is normal and may last for several weeks.
  • Your child can talk after surgery but it may hurt.

Home Care:

  • Raw white areas will appear where the tonsils were removed. These are like scabs and will go away in about two weeks. Your child will have bad breath. This is normal and will also go away.
  • A prescription for pain medicine will be given. You should have it filled and give for up to two weeks. Your child’s doctor may also recommend a non-prescription pain medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do NOT use aspirin.
  • Your child may have some ear pain for as long as two weeks after surgery. This pain is “referred pain” from the tonsil area and does not mean that anything is wrong with the ears. The pain medicine, a warm wash cloth wrapped in a towel or a heating pad applied to the neck may help decrease ear pain.
  • Your child may have a temperature of around 100°F (37.8°C to 37.9°C) for 1 to 7 days after surgery. If temperature goes above 102°F, call your child’s doctor.
  • Your child’s doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Your child should not vigorously blow his nose or clear the throat after surgery.
  • Your child will need to drink a lot of liquids. This will speed recovery and lessen sore throat pain.


It is recommended that after surgery your child start with a clear liquid diet. Your child needs to drink a lot of liquids.

Clear Liquid Diet:

  • 7-Up®, Sprite®, water or ginger ale
  • Popsicles®, fruit ices
  • Plain gelatin
  • Apple juice, non-citrus fruit punches (Avoid citrus juices such as orange or grapefruit because these may burn the throat.)
  • Iced tea

Once your child tolerates these liquids you may advance to a full liquid, soft, or regular diet. (Continue to offer clear liquid items as well).

Full Liquid Diet:

  • Ice cream, pudding, custard
  • Eggnog, milk, milk drinks
  • Smooth sherbet, smooth yogurt, frozen yogurt
  • Slurpees
  • Milkshakes

Soft Diet after Tonsillectomy/Adenoidectomy

  • Soft eggs
  • High-protein, high-calorie supplements
  • Ground meat
  • Lukewarm mashed potatoes/gravy
  • Vegetable puree
  • Cooled macaroni and cheese
  • White bread, not toasted
  • Margarine/butter
  • Ripe bananas
  • Lukewarm cooked cereals
  • Soft, canned fruits

Avoid spicy foods and foods that might scratch the throat like popcorn, potato chips, or corn chips.


  • Limit activity to quiet play for two days with plenty of rest time. No contact sports, rough play, heavy lifting or gym classes for about two weeks or until allowed by your child’s doctor.
  • Your child’s doctor will help you decide when your child may return to school, usually 5-10 days after surgery.
  • Teenagers who are smokers should not smoke for 2 weeks.

Call the doctor if your child:

  • Swallows a lot or has any active (one teaspoon or more) bleeding from the nose or mouth.
  • Has symptoms of dehydration: dry mouth, sunken look around eyes, no tears when crying, decreased amount of urine, which means fewer wet diapers than usual in an infant or toddler.
  • Vomits or remains very nauseated after leaving the hospital.
  • Has a temperature is 102°F (38.9°C) or more.
  • Is unable to drink for more than 12 hours.
  • Continues to have pain even after taking medicine as ordered.

Also, please call if you have any questions or concerns.


  • If your doctor determines that a follow-up appointment is necessary, this will usually be arranged two to eight weeks after surgery. Use the phone number your child’s nurse gives you if you have any questions about follow-up.
  • Check with your child’s surgeon before making plans to go out of town during the first two weeks after surgery.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 07/2013

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