Clinical Hub,Patient Education,Health and Nutrition Facts For You,Ear Nose and Throat

Caring for Your Child after a Tonsillectomy (5422)

Caring for Your Child after a Tonsillectomy (5422) - Clinical Hub, Patient Education, Health and Nutrition Facts For You, Ear Nose and Throat


Caring for Your Child after a Tonsillectomy

What Is a Tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove lymph
tissue (tonsils) that lies on either side of the
back of the throat.

What to Expect
After you go home you may expect:

• Sore throat, especially when swallowing.
This may last 7-10 days.
• Ear, jaw, and neck pain. It may not start
until 3-4 days after surgery. This may
last for 7-10 days.
• Try to avoid excess clearing of the
• Your child may have nausea and
vomiting. Your doctor may prescribe a
medicine that may be given to help this
at home.
• A low-grade fever is normal, up to 102°
regardless of the method used to take a
temperature, for up to 7 days after
• A yellow-grey membrane where the
tonsils were removed. It will slowly go
away as the area heals, often in 3-4
• Restless, disturbed sleep or nightmares
may occur for a couple of weeks.
• Bad breath. Your child’s breath may be
bad smelling for many days while the
throat is healing. Drinking plenty of
liquids helps decrease the odor.

Pain Relief
Your doctor will suggest medicine for sore
throat and ear pain. Be sure to focus on pain
control so that your child can drink plenty of

• Your doctor may suggest giving
acetaminophen (Tylenol ), in
combination with ibuprofen. You will
be told of the dosages for both
medicines on the day of surgery.
• Give these medicines for the first 48-72
hours around the clock.
• A prescription may also be written for
severe pain and may be used as directed
if acetaminophen (Tylenol ), in
combination with ibuprofen is not
• Try to time the pain medicine so that
your child takes it about 1 hour before
meals. This will help to decrease pain
when swallowing.
• An ice pack may help. You may want to
put a small bag of frozen corn or peas in
a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel.
Place it on the throat for 20 minutes at a
• A humidifier or vaporizer may ease
throat soreness.

Limit your child’s activity for one (1) week.

• Your child should avoid strenuous
exercise and activity, swimming, or
lifting more than 25 lbs.
• Be sure your child gets plenty of rest.
• Plan for your child to be out of school or
daycare for at least 1 week.

Your child may lose weight from eating less
than normal. This is ok as long as she is
drinking plenty of fluids.
Follow the “tonsillectomy diet” for one (1)
week. This means:

• Begin with clear liquids such as: water,
broth, apple juice, popsicles, Jell-o , Hi-
C , and Kool-Aid . Cold or lukewarm
liquids may feel better at first but any
temperature your child prefers is fine.
Frequent small sips are better than
quickly drinking a large amount of fluid
and then not drinking for the next few
• Other foods that your child may like are
pudding, ice cream, milkshakes, and
cream soup.
• Your child may eat soft foods as soon as
he feels able to. Soft foods include:
scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes,
macaroni and cheese, cooked cereal,
yogurt, and apple sauce.
• Some children eat solid foods earlier
than others. Your child will eat solid
floods when he is able to swallow better.
It is normal if your child does not want
to eat solid foods the first week. It is
vital that he drink plenty of liquids.
Acidic or spicy foods (orange or
grapefruit juice, tomatoes) may make
your child’s throat more sore, but won’t
do him any harm.
• Do not eat foods that are rough and
crunchy for an entire week. They may
scratch your child’s throat and cause
bleeding. This includes:
o popcorn
o pretzels
o potato chips, other chips
o nuts
o cold cereal

Your child will not have a follow-up clinic
visit unless there is a problem. You will be
called by a nurse 3 to 4 weeks after you go
home. You may call at any time with
questions or concerns.

When to Call the Doctor or Clinic Nurse

Call one of the phone numbers below if your
child has:

• Any bleeding
• Nausea and vomiting that do not go
• A fever over 102° regardless of the
method used to take temperature
• Pain not controlled with medicine.
• A feeling that your child is not
recovering as she should. It takes about
7-10 days before she will start to feel
• Dehydration. Your child should be
urinating at least twice in 24 hours.

Phone Numbers
• Pediatric Otolaryngology (ENT) Clinic:
Call (608) 265-7760, weekdays from
8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
• After clinic hours and weekends: Call
(608) 262-0486. This will give you the
paging operator. Ask for the ENT doctor
on call. Give the operator your name
and phone number with the area code.
The doctor will call you back.
• If outside the Madison area, call toll free

Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5422