Knowing what to expect after a tonsillectomy and adenoids removal can be a life saver when preparing your home and yourself/your loved one to minimize pain and discomfort. This is a parent’s perspective and advice post, if you have any serious medical emergencies or questions please consult your doctor as this is simply information to help you.
I am writing this post while in the midst of my son recovering from his tonsillectomy in hopes that it will help another parent who is anticipating this surgery for their child. I will admit that the recovery has been quite a bit tougher than I thought it would be. My son is young, only four years old, and I have heard from many that the older you are the harder the recovery will be. With that being said, I don’t think it is an easy road for most.
First, lets start with what you will want to purchase and have in your home before the day of surgery.
What you will want in your home for recovery/PostOp
- syringe/medicine dropper: This thing has been a life saver for giving medicine as well as drinking liquids. One thing I was unaware of was how painful it would be for my son to tilt his head back. So taking medicine or drinking through a cup can prove to be extra painful.
- Straws: We ended up keeping and using the styrofoam cup given to us at the hospital and refilled it with ice which kept the drink nice and cold for hours. Buying extra straws made it easy to swap out or use in our own cups. Make sure to buy this kind with a bendy top to make it easier to drink from lying down.
- Humidifier: My sweet nurse friend suggested I have a cool-mist humidifier ready for sleeping as it was a life saver to her. Thank GOODNESS I listened, because it really made all of the difference in the world. Your child’s throat is developing a scab that you want to keep as moist as possible. If they wake up with a dry throat it will feel like glass shards and be extremely painful.
- Medicine: This is pretty obvious, but I was surprised at how much medicine we are actually going through. By following the three hour alternating rule of Tylenol/ibuprofen every three hours morning and night you will go through a lot of medicine FAST. Stock up ahead of time if you’re able. Your doctor may prescribe you something different, it will be based on medical history, age, and size.
- Medicated suckers: A friend of mine told me about special suckers that are made with lidocaine in them that will numb the throat and help with the recovery of your child’s tonsils. Your doctor may or may not prescribe them to you without you asking, but keep in mind that they are also not available at every pharmacy and are made upon demand. (At least that is how it is here.) My doctor did offer them as an option the day of the surgery, but I am so glad I called ahead and had them filled BEFORE the day of surgery so we didn’t have to make any stops on the way home or later that day. They are quite expensive, ours were $5 a pop, but they have been a life saver for a lot of people I talked to.
- Lots of drink options: So far the drinks that my son has liked the most are Gatorade, water, crystal light, and milk. It is suggested that you avoid dairy for the first few days to avoid mucous build up, but it is most important that they stay hydrated. I would suggest getting different flavors of drinks with electrolytes as that will give your child the best chance of rehydrating quickly. Another drink option that my son really liked were protein drinks, I especially like this option as it helped settle his tummy. “Some patients experience nausea and vomiting after the surgery. This usually occurs within the first 24 hours and resolves on its own after the effects of anesthesia wear off. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration (urination less than 2-3 times a day or crying without tears)”
- Soft foods: Almost everyone I talked to suggested we have a lot of popsicles & ice cream. My son did not want to suck on popsicles, but he did like applesauce in packets, greek yogurt, cereal (I would suggest a soft cereal like Rice Krispies, we did the chocolate kind and he loved those), cottage cheese, pancakes, peanut butter, scrambled eggs, and ice cream. One tip that we did was buy the small individual cups of ice cream and I am so glad we did. He would take a bite or two and be done. It was nice not having to mess with scooping it and prepping it. The portion size was just right. Avoid anything that is red so that you can keep an eye on the possibility of bleeding. Other food items that could work for you are soft pasta noodles, soup, mashed potatoes, or bone broth. My son’s favorite foods by day 3/4 were popcorn and ritz crackers. I think they were satisfying as they were salty and helped replenish his electrolytes.
- Entertainment that will help calm your child’s mind: This may seem obvious, but try your best to have a list of things that may help your child relax and distract them from the pain of the surgery. For my first son this would have been episodes of Curious George, for my son who had this surgery it is playing “Plants vs. Zombies”. This information is especially helpful when it is time to take medicine and your child is screaming in pain and NOT wanting to take the medicine. Other ideas might be a soothing song, a movie, a video game, or a calming bath.
Heading to the hospital, what you’ll want in your bag:
- Bring a special lovey that will help your child feel comfortable. A special blanket or stuffed animal can be amazing for giving your child peace of mind.
- New pjs. This is NOT necessary, but I found it really helpful in preparation for going to the hospital and making the event all about him.
- Snacks for you. As a patient your child will not be able to eat/drink after midnight the night before the surgery. Our waiting room had snacks, but it may be a good idea to pack something for yourself as you wait.
- Throw up bag. I am so grateful I brought the one they provided home with us in the car because half way home my son announced he was sick. We pulled over, and thankfully I had the barf bag ready to go. Coming out of anesthesia is really tricky, and can cause vomiting for up to 24 hours afterward. Our nurse told us this was completely normal, and sure enough our son threw up two times later that night.
- The recovery room will be very sad and will take a while for your child to come out of anesthesia. It is so heartbreaking, my heart it there for you mama.
Word to the wise:
Try your very best to keep your child on a regular medicine routine and drinking lots and lots of fluids. A low grade fever is considered normal within the first week postOp,but it is most often linked to dehydration. We are on day 5 and we are still having to stay on top of our medicine/fluids to avoid a low grade fever.
Bad breath is going to happen. Thick white scabs will form on the back of the throat from the surgery and will be very, very stinky. This is normal, and I we are just now coming into it and it is real! Most scabs will start to fall off 5-10 days after surgery.
If you see bright red blood any time anytime consult your doctor immediately.
I hope you found something helpful in this post. Best wishes to you and much love. Be prepared for late nights and lots of snuggles, I must admit this process has been harder than I thought it would be. Plan on two weeks of recovery and pain. I have heard from many that day 10 can be the very worst! I will let you know how it goes for us and I will update this post then.