Tonsillectomy Tips: Preparing for Your Child’s Surgery

My tonsils were removed when I was a teenager and I vividly remember the painful recovery. I’ve known in the back of my mind that the time for my son to get his out was looming, so when the ENT recommended a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy (for the second time), and turbinate reduction this summer, all I could think about was the recovery period and how much pain my little buddy would be in.

When he had his adenoids out last year as a four-year-old, it was a piece of cake. In fact, other than waking up from the anesthesia, it went better than most dental visits! I was pleasantly surprised because, naturally, I worried about the surgery for weeks. This time around I knew it was going to be rougher. The recovery from a tonsillectomy is a little more intense, but I was prepared. Oddly enough, I’ve known five kids who’ve had their tonsils removed over the past few weeks, so I’ve deemed this “The Summer of the Tonsillectomies.”

Why remove tonsils?

My son had his tonsils removed because of sleep apnea, not because of infections. I think he’s had Strep maybe twice in his five years of life, so that was never an issue. What was a problem, however, was his snoring. This led to fitful nights of rest and a lack of growth. After much reading and searching for answers, removing his tonsils seemed like the answer to many of our worries. Plus, his tonsils were HUGE. They were gigantic fleshy masses that seemed to take over the back of his throat. Gross.

Tips for tonsillectomy surgery and recovery

If your child has an upcoming tonsillectomy, here are some tips I’d like to share to help ease into the surgery and bring about a smoother recovery.

Take your child shopping a day or so before the surgery to pick out their favorite juices, ice creams, and popsicles. I did this the night before so that he wouldn’t bug me about eating them in the days leading up to the surgery. He was so excited that I let him pick everything out, and not his sisters.

The night before the surgery, I reminded him what it might feel like when he woke up from surgery. Prior to that, we had spent many days talking about the surgery. I let him look at his tonsils with a flashlight in the mirror, we looked at diagrams of tonsils, and he looked at my throat to see that mine were gone. Obviously, I didn’t want to freak him out (“Your throat is going to hurt!!!!!!!”), but I didn’t want to catch him off guard, either. He needed to know that his throat was going to be sore and he might not feel like eating or drinking much.

Speaking of drinking, this is the most important thing you can focus on after surgery, which is why my typical daily juice limit was thrown out the window. I just needed him to drink! The last thing you want is a dehydrated kiddo and another trip back to the hospital. Drink, drink, drink.

Be prepared for the nasty, bloody vomit. This is putting it nicely. Be prepared for the crime scene your child will throw up into their bed a day or so following surgery. This was the only part of the recovery that really freaked my son out.

Have pain meds ready to go. My child didn’t complain of pain once, which is abnormal for him, but I was certainly happy! We never needed the prescription pain medicine, but we picked it up just in case.

Remember that the first week or two will be spent with a lot of downtime, so stock up on Play Doh, movies, Legos, and anything else to keep your recovering child occupied.

Jessica Grubb
Jessica, a native of North Texas, lives in Wylie with her husband of 8 years, David. She is an elementary teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, turned preschool teacher. When she’s not up to her elbows in a random project, writing and re-writing lesson plans, or reading (trying to finish?) a good book, she and her husband are busy raising their three incredibly amazing kids: Emily, who just started Kindergarten, loves science, and wants to be a chemist when she grows up, Liam, a 3-year-old who can always be found playing with trains and building intricate tracks, and Charlotte, a 1 ½ year old who enjoys dragging her Lambie around and belting out songs in the middle of the store/doctor’s office/library. Jessica graduated from UT Dallas with a degree in Literary Studies and then went on to receive her teaching certification from Texas A&M Commerce. She has taught private school in Garland and public school in Plano ISD. She is currently teaching at a preschool in Wylie where her middle and little also attend. She thinks it’s great that she’s right down the hall from them and is happy to be back in the classroom! She loves to write and recently started a blog about being a mom, wife, and teacher: I'm Sorry for What I Said When I Was Tired