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After Tonsillectomy in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


A tonsillectomy

is surgery to remove your child's tonsils. Tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your child's throat. Your child's tonsils may need to be removed if he or she has throat infections often or trouble breathing during sleep.

Adenoid and Tonsil Removal

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth or eyes. He or she may urinate less than usual or not at all.
  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child has a fever above 102°F (39°C), or a low-grade fever for longer than 2 days.
  • Your child has bright red bleeding from the throat, nose, or mouth, or his or her bleeding gets worse.

Call your child's doctor or surgeon if:

  • Your child has stomach pain or is vomiting.
  • Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he or she has the flu or a fever and takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin or salicylates.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell the provider if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for you child at home:

  • Limit your child's activities. Your child will need to rest after surgery. Ask the surgeon when your child can return to his or her daily activities, such as school or sports.
  • Give your child liquids. This will help prevent dehydration. Ask the surgeon how much liquid your child needs. Liquids and foods that are cool or cold, such as water, apple or grape juice, popsicles, and gelatin, will help decrease pain and swelling. Do not give your child citrus juices, such as orange juice or grapefruit juice. Do not give your child hot liquids such as soup or tea. These liquids may hurt his or her throat.
  • Do not give your child straws for up to 2 weeks, or as directed by his or her surgeon. Drinking from a straw may increase your child's risk for bleeding.
  • Give your child soft foods for 10 to 14 days to decrease pain during eating. Examples are applesauce, scrambled or boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni, and ice cream. Your child may slowly begin to eat solid foods once he or she can eat soft food easily. Do not give him or her anything spicy, hot, or with sharp edges, such as chips.
  • Clean your child's mouth. Gently rinse his or her mouth as directed to remove blood and mucus. The white scabs that will form in the back of the throat will cause bad breath. This is normal. Do not let your child gargle or brush his or her teeth too hard. This can cause bleeding. Help your child gently brush his or her teeth if needed.

Follow up with your child's doctor or surgeon as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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