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A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove your tonsils. Tonsils are 2 large lumps of tissue in the back of your throat. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue on the top of your throat. Tonsils and adenoids both fight infection. Sometimes only your tonsils are removed. Your adenoids may be taken out at the same time if they are large or infected.



  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. You can buy NSAIDs without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is right for you, and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly. Do not take aspirin. This can increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine is available without a doctor's order. It may decrease your pain and fever. Ask how much medicine you need and how often to take it.
  • Pain medicines: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Take as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

What to expect after surgery:

  • Pain and swelling: Your throat may be sore up to 2 weeks after surgery. Your face and neck may be swollen or tender. It may be hard to turn your head.
  • Mild fever: You may have a low fever while your tonsil areas heal. Drink liquids often to help reduce it.
  • Bleeding: A small amount of bleeding is normal within 24 hours after surgery. Bleeding can also happen 5 to 7 days after surgery when your scabs fall off, or if you have an infection. Ask how much bleeding to expect.

Mouth care:

It is normal to have mouth pain and bad breath for a few days after surgery. Care for your mouth as follows:

  • Brush your teeth gently. Avoid harsh gargling or tooth brushing. This can cause bleeding.
  • Gently rinse your mouth as directed to remove blood and mucus.

Food and drink:

You will need to follow a liquid diet or soft food diet for several days after surgery.

  • Drink plenty of liquids: This will help prevent fluid loss, keep your temperature down, decrease pain, and speed healing. Liquids and foods that are cool or cold, such as water, apple or grape juice, and popsicles, will help decrease pain and swelling. Do not drink orange juice or grapefruit juice. They may bother your throat.
  • Start with soft foods: Once you can drink liquids and your stomach is not upset, you may then have soft, plain foods. Begin with foods like applesauce, oatmeal, soft-boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, gelatin, and ice cream. Once you can eat soft food easily, you may slowly begin to eat solid foods. Avoid anything hot, spicy, or sharp, such as chips. These foods can hurt your tonsil areas.
  • Avoid hot food and drinks: Avoid coffee, tea, soup, and other hot or warm foods and drinks. They can increase your risk for bleeding. Avoid milk and dairy foods if you have problems with thick mucus in your throat. This can cause you to cough, which could hurt your surgery areas.


  • Use ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your throat for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for 2 days.
  • Use a cool humidifier: This will help moisten the air and soothe your throat.
  • Get plenty of rest: Limit your activity for 7 to 10 days after surgery. It may take 2 weeks for you to recover. Ask when you can drive or return to work.
  • Do not smoke or go to smoky areas: Until you heal, smoke may cause you to cough or your throat to start bleeding heavily.
  • Stay away from people who have colds, sore throats, or the flu: You may get sick more easily after surgery.

Contact your surgeon or primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have throat pain or an earache that is worse than expected.
  • You have pus or blood draining down your throat.
  • You have itchy skin or a rash.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have bright red bleeding from your nose or mouth, or bleeding that is worse than what you were told to expect.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or like you might faint when you sit up or stand.
  • You have severe throat pain with drooling or voice changes.
  • Your neck is stiff and painful.
  • You have swelling or pain in your face or neck.
  • You have back or chest pain.
  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.